The SmarK Rant for Wrestlemania X-8 – 03.17.02
(Originally written 04.03.21)
I know all the kids are talkin’ bout the 20th anniversary of Wrestlemania X-7 and all at the moment, but what about the poor Wrestlemania that had to FOLLOW that one? I haven’t actually watched this show outside of the one notable match since 2002 and have forgotten most of the details of the show, so this will be interesting to revisit this weekend, I think. As a trivia note, this is the last Wrestlemania under the “WWF” name.
Live from Skydome in Toronto, ON, drawing what was apparently a legit 68,000 and a 1.68 buyrate.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
You know it’s 2002 because Saliva does a live concert to open the show.
Intercontinental title: William Regal v. Rob Van Dam
Rob gets a spinkick right away and a standing moonsault, but Regal immediately loads up THE POWER OF THE PUNCH, and Rob kicks the brass knuckles away and then hits him with a springboard kick to set up the frog splash, which misses. Regal hits him with a running knee for two, but RVD gets a crossbody for two and a backslide for two. Regal beats him down and gets a suplex for two, and the arm-trap neckbreaker gets two. Regal grabs a hold as Rob has managed to bust open his mouth with a kick, which probably didn’t help poor Rob’s rep. Regal with a powerbomb for two, but Rob cradles for two and slugs away in the corner. Rob rolls into a monkey flip, but Regal puts him down again with an exploder and Rob bails to the floor to recover. This allows Regal a chance to retrieve his lost knuckles, but Rob kicks them away again and goes up with the frog splash for the pin and the title at 6:19. RVD was looking pretty hyper in his first big stadium show and Regal had to slow him down a lot so it was kind of a style clash. **1/2
Meanwhile, Christian is all fake smiles after turning on DDP and announces that he’s no longer from Toronto and is now from Florida. That was actually a real thing for a while, because Vince didn’t want people associated with “Bizarroworld” and had hometowns switched to keep people from booing Canada or something.
European title: Diamond Dallas Page v. Christian
I do miss Christian’s overblown “at last you’re on your own” entrance stinger. And despite them having Christian renounce his home city before the match, the crowd still boos DDP and cheers Christian. Page slugs away on Christian to start and gets a gutbuster before clotheslining him to the floor. Back in, Page does the punches in the corner, but Christian drops him on the turnbuckle and bumps him from the apron to the floor. Back in, he chokes DDP out in the corner and they fight to the floor as the crowd has been dead for the whole match. Probably because they want to cheer Christian and they insisted on having him work heel in his home town. Christian with a backbreaker for two. He goes up and Page slams him off for a double down and then comes back with the discus lariat and rotation powerbomb for two. Unprettier is reversed to a Diamond Cutter attempt, but Christian grabs the ropes and hits an inverted DDT for two. Christian teases throwing a tantrum, but recovers his composure, at which point he eats the Diamond Cutter and gets pinned at 6:09. And that was DDP’s one and only Wrestlemania match. And what a forgettable one is was. *1/2
Meanwhile, The Rock has fully recovered from Hogan’s murder attempt and he’s ready to determine who’s the greatest ever. Rock wants Hulkamania to run wild all over him tonight, but makes sure to take time to abuse Coach by forcing him to say his prayers because he didn’t have time to do it this morning. And Coach can’t even do that properly so Rock puts the boots to him and sends him packing. And then he tears off his shirt and promises that Hulk will smell what the Rock is cooking. How could anyone boo this man? Sick freaks.
Hardcore title: Maven v. Goldust
Wait, MAVEN held a title? No wonder I blocked this all out. Did they intend to have Raven on the booking sheet and spelled it wrong by mistake? Goldust, making his first unlikely comeback of many after debuting at the Rumble, throws him into the railing on the floor and beats on him with a bit of gold plunder in the ring. Maven uses one of the trash cans for two and a small package gets two. Goldust with a neckbreaker for two and a gourdbuster, and he retrieves a gold plated shovel from under the ring, apparently having saved up lots of bells in Animal Crossing. There’s your 2021 reference for you future readers. We get a trash can lid duel and both guys are out, but Spike Dudley runs in and pins Maven to win the title at 3:19. And then everyone takes off into the crowd. Let’s just move on. DUD
Oh hey, now we get DROWNING POOL doing a concert. I admit to bad musical tastes as much as the next guy but HOLY SHIT am I glad nu metal didn’t survive to this decade.
Meanwhile, Crash Holly has caught Spike Dudley for a brawl in the back, but Al Snow charges them on a golf cart and drives it into a conspicuous wall of cardboard boxes. But then Hurricane swoops in and pins Spike to win the title and disappears.
Hot take: This first hour hasn’t exactly been up to Wrestlemania standards thus far.
Kurt Angle v. Kane
OK, time for Kurt to save the show. As noted in my original rant, Kurt debuts the amazing Superfriends Mirror Universe black tights here, and then makes sure to make fun of the Canadian figure skating gold medal win at the Olympics for the cheap heat. Speaking of cheap, Kurt lays him out with the bell to start and hits him with a german suplex before putting the boots to Kane in the corner. Kane fights back and puts him down with an elbow, then very loudly tells him “double goozle” and does the two-handed choke in the corner as promised. Blind charge misses and Kurt hits him with an overhead suplex and a pair of clotheslines to put him down. They slug it out and Angle gets a backdrop suplex for two and goes to a facelock on the mat. Kane fights out with a sideslam, but Kurt fires back with the germans, for two. Kurt goes up with a flying clothesline, but a second one is caught by Kane and they’re both down. They slug it out and Kane puts him down with a big boot and a backdrop and a powerslam for two. Kurt charges and gets chokeslammed, but he’s in the ropes. So Kane tries the tombstone, but Angle pulls the mask up and slips out to hit the Angle Slam for two. Kurt pulls down the straps and gets the anklelock, which honestly is a bit silly because he hasn’t even hit him in the leg all match, but Kane makes the ropes anyway and comes back with the KANE-ZUIGIRI. Kane goes up and Kurt pops up for the superplex, but Kane escapes the Angle Slam and goes for the chokeslam, which Kurt turns into a rollup with his feet on the ropes for the pin at 10:50. Good TV-level match, weak finish. *** Kane of course was in that awkward phase that all siblings of the undead inevitably go through, kind of drifting through the midcard until finding his focus again late in 2003.
Meanwhile, Hurricane hides in the women’s locker room and gets an eyeful of ho, but Godfather makes the save.
Undertaker v. Ric Flair
Flair was still co-owner of the WWF coming off Survivor Series and this feud had one of the more ludicrously one-sided buildups in WM history. Taker wants a match to get revenge on Flair, so he beats up and bloodies Arn Anderson, then attacks David Flair and bloodies him up, manipulates Flair into a no-DQ match, and then Flair gets stripped of his authority by the WWF board of directors on top of everything else! JR notes off-handedly that Undertaker is 9-0 at Wrestlemania and has never lost there. Hopefully someone is keeping track of that stuff. I should note as well that in the WWE Champions game, the “Co-Owner” version of Flair is based on this match in particular, complete with his gear from this match and a character art ripped directly from the graphic before this match. Flair attacks and slugs away on Taker to start, putting Taker on the floor, but he charges and gets run into the post as Taker takes over. It’s amazing that you have this feud that should have been a giant draw given the names involved, but the “Make Death Valley Great Again” character was such a tiresome slog in 2002 that it just sucked all the fun out of the feud. Into the ring, Flair slugs away in the corner, but UT shrugs him off and beats him down before giving him some elbows and a Flair Flip (after one botched attempt on Flair’s part). Back to the floor as JR continues trying to get “ol Booger Red” over as a serious nickname for Undertaker, and Taker continues assaulting Flair, drawing blood. I’m shocked as I’m sure you are as well. Back in the ring, Taker continues beating on Flair and then puts him on the top rope for a superplex, and then picks him up at two. To the apron for the guillotine legdrop for two, and Taker picks him up AGAIN. Flair fights back with chops, so Taker goes old school and Flair yanks him off the top as a result. Flair fights back again, but walks into a sideslam for two. Taker misses a charge and Flair chops him to the floor this time, basically his only offensive output for the match thus far, and finally grabs a lead pipe off Taker’s bike and gets some shots with that to bust Taker open. Back in the ring, he finally goes low to get some offense and then gets the figure-four, but Taker no-sells THAT and sits up for a chokeslam to escape. That gets two, so Taker beats up Little Naitch and retrieves his lead pipe, at which point Arn Anderson runs in and delivers a spinebuster that gets two for the best near-fall of the match. And even ARN is bleeding as Taker kicks his ass in retribution, but Flair uses a chair to save until Taker boots that away from him. Taker goes for the Last Ride, but Flair can’t go up for it, so instead he hits the tombstone and that finishes at 18:43. This was such a strangely booked match as everything was building to Flair getting his revenge, but Taker barely sold for him and won clean with his finisher in the middle. Flair looked really good here, too, and it was good, but it was too long for what it was, and should have been way better. ***
Meanwhile, Booker T is wearing glasses, so clearly he’s highly intelligent. This was riffing on his famous botched appearance on The Weakest Link for those who don’t remember.
Booker T v. Edge
Yes, this is the source of the “THEY’RE FIGHTING OVER SHAMPOO!” sign, because that was the insta-feud reasoning behind the match. Ironically Edge’s hair looks like shit now and he probably should seek out a shampoo endorsement deal and use some. OH YEAH I WENT THERE. And ugh, it’s the Rob Zombie era for Edge’s entrance music. Never a fan. They slug it out to start and Edge dropkicks him and gets the bulldog for two. Booker stunguns him and follows with a spinkick for two before clotheslining him to the floor. Back in, Booker with a missile dropkick for two and he puts the boots to him in the corner and follows with a spinebuster for two as they’re having trouble getting on the same page here for some reason. Booker goes up and gets crotched and Edge brings him down with a rana that nearly goes REALLY badly and even the crowd is like “Yikes!” at that point. I’m assuming this is nerves on Edge’s part for performing at the Skydome at Wrestlemania, but I don’t know if he’s talked about this match in the past. Edge gets the Edge-o-Matic for two and goes up with a flying leg lariat for two, then catapults him into the corner. Spear misses and Booker debuts the Spinarooni at Wrestlemania to set up the axe kick for two. This prompts Edge to do his own Spinarooni before finishing with the implant DDT at 6:30. Well that was a match that happened. **1/4 Did that really need to be on the WM card?
Meanwhile, the Hurricane continues trying to escape with the Hardcore title, but Coach questions his superhero morality for being a Hurri-perv, at which point Mighty Molly turns on him with a frying pan and wins the title.
Stone Cold Steve Austin v. Scott Hall
So of course Austin has talked about this one a lot in the years since, as he was a mess of injuries and Hall was just a mess in general, and Austin didn’t really want to work with him, leaving this as a recipe for disaster from jump street. The nWo thing was such a misguided whiff that they would have been 100x better off to just make him Razor Ramon again and let him do THAT gimmick. Now I of course am never the type to cast aspersions on the trustworthiness of Kevin Nash and his word, but it has long been known that Nash v. Austin was supposed to be the match here and Nash got out of taking the stunner because he was injured and thus unable to do so. However, he’s here at ringside, and worked the week BEFORE this show in a tag match, and then the night AFTER this show in a tag match, so I feel like if he could get up onto the apron for those then he could have done a 30 second job to Austin and taken the fucking stunner. Or, maybe could have found a partner and they could have gone, like, Austin and someone against the Outsiders. I dunno, I wasn’t at the booking meetings, but this absolutely ended up as the worst choice. Austin attacks and stomps a mudhole at the bell before hitting him with chops and a Thesz Press. Austin rams him into the turnbuckles while the crowd chants “What” in a cute spot, and Hall bails to finally get his vest off. They fight on the floor and Austin takes out Nash on the way by (Hint: KICK HIM IN THE KNEE!) and back in where Hall takes over with a clothesline for two. Austin slugs away in the corner, but Nash pulls off a turnbuckle and Hall whips Austin into it to get the heat. Some guy at ringside chants “Diesel!” at Nash mockingly, showing the kind of in-depth cleverness you’d expect from Bizarroworld. Hall with the sack of shit slam for two and a clothesline gets two. Hall chokes him out on the ropes and Nash gets a cheapshot from the floor, and now the crowd starts chanting “Razor”, which probably should have been a tip-off about what was going to be coming later. Austin fights back with a spinebuster as Hall flops down like a dead fish on the bump. Hall slugs away again, but Austin hits him with the stunner for two and Nash pulls out the ref. Kev beats on Austin, looking pretty non-injured to my amateur eye, and the Outsiders double-team Austin before he fights them off and it’s KICK WHAM STUNNER for both of them and now there’s no ref. So a second ref comes in and Nash takes HIM out, but Austin throws them both out of the ring before a squad of referees come out and send Nash to the dressing room. Back in, Austin tries another stunner, but Hall gets his own and the ref finally revives for two. So Hall tries another one, but Austin has had enough and KICK WHAM STUNNER finishes this nonsense at 9:49 for good. Even at less than 10 minutes this was insanely long and overbooked for what it should have been. It was like they had a minute and a half of match body and had to stretch it out to 10:00 and couldn’t even get it that far without a million ref bumps and interference. * Hall looked BAD here and although it was assumed that he was drunk off his ass, Hall later maintained that he was actually on anti-alcoholic medication that was the actual cause of his sickness here.
WWF tag team titles: Billy & Chuck v. The APA v. The Dudley Boyz v. The Hardy Boyz
Yes, it’s another nu metal abomination as Saliva does “Get the Tables” live for the Dudleyz entrance, which does give us the visual of Stacy grinding with Josie Scott to make him the luckiest bastard alive but otherwise it’s not the best song for them. Given I didn’t even remember this one being on the card I’m guessing this is going to be another nothing burger in a series of them tonight. Like I wouldn’t call this a BAD show by any stretch thus far, but after the intricately booked and laid-out brilliance of X-7 this is just a bunch of guys doing stuff by comparison. Bradshaw beats on Chuck to start, but Billy gives him a neckbreaker from behind and Chuck falls on top for two. Bradshaw with a backdrop driver on Chuck and the APA double-teams him in the corner. Faarooq with a powerslam on Billy, who JR is still calling “The One Billy Gunn”, and Bradshaw powerslams Billy for two. D-Von comes in and the APA beats on them as well, but 3D eliminates Bradshaw at 3:30 to take out the APA. The Hardyz double-team D-Von for two and give Chuck an awkward double-DDT while Bubba sets up a table at ringside. Stacy takes the ref, but Jeff sends her off the apron with a good-natured slap on the ass, because CHICKS, am I right fellas? Jeff gets double-teamed in the Dudley corner while this drags on and the announcers lose the train of thought and ramble on about Stacy, and Bubba backdrops Jeff for two. Jeff fights out of a chinlock and D-Von cuts him off with a clothesline for two. Suplex gets two. Jeff gets hung in the Tree of Woe and Bubba puts the boots to him, but Matt makes the save and shoves him to the floor. D-Von cuts off the tag again and the crowd is DEAD for this, but Jeff gets an inverted DDT on D-Von and makes the hot tag to Matt and even that doesn’t get any reaction from the crowd. Matt cleans house, but Bubba cuts him off with a suplex and goes up for a senton, which misses. Matt gets the yodeling legdrop for two while Billy Gunn puts D-Von through his own table on the floor, and the swanton finishes Bubba at 11:49 to leave the Hardyz and Chuckabilly. Palumbo hits Matt with a jungle kick for two, but Matt gets a Side Effect on Billy and then hits a Twist of Fate into Jeff’s swanton on Chuck, but Billy gets the fameasser on Jeff and Chuck gets two. But then Billy uses his favorite finisher, the championship belt to the head, and Chuck gets the pin to retain at 13:53. This had moments of OKness but there wasn’t much to it. **
Meanwhile, Hulk lets the Outsiders know that he wants to go it alone tonight and doesn’t need their help so that Rock has no excuses. This doesn’t go over very well.
Meanwhile, Molly runs into a door and gets pinned by Christian, making him the new Hardcore champion.
The Rock v. Hollywood Hogan
I have seen this match more times than I can count at this point, but we might as well watch it again even though I’m not changing my rating for it again. I actually think that if they had just left the buildup at the “Icon v. Icon” stuff instead of shoving the ridiculous murder attempts on top of it, it actually would have drawn better. I feel like the truck attack did a lot to hurt interest. Sadly, there’s no spicy VOODOO CHILI for Hulk here. And the crowd is IMMEDIATELY going nuts for Hogan as I turn up the volume on the headphones because it’s gonna be good. JR notes that “Rock’s career was thankfully salvaged” after the truck attack. Yeah we were really hanging on the edge of our seats after that one, I know. Of course it turns out that a clerical error was more deadly to Rock’s wrestling career than any heel attack ever could be. We of course get the staredown to end them all as they both know how to milk the crowd without even moving, and then Hulk wins a lockup battle and flexes on him while the crowd goes BANANA. Hulk grabs a headlock as the crowd is already turning on Rock and Hulk knows exactly how to turn the situation to his advantage. So Rock slugs HIM down and the crowd boos the shit out of him as JR is lamely trying to call this a “split crowd”. I love Rock more than anyone but Hulk is on another level of genius here in upping his worth. They fight to the floor and Rock gets shots out there, and back in for a clothesline from Rock as Hulk goes right into sympathy mode. Hulk escapes the Rock Bottom and slugs Rock down, then hits him with the Ax bomber and drops elbows on him before following with a corner clothesline. We get an awkward spot as Rock counters the big boot with a spear and goes for the Rock Bottom, but Hulk counters with a suplex for two. Hulk with the abdominal stretch, although Gorilla would of course note how badly he applies it, and he turns that into a rollup for two. Hulk with the back rakes and even he is shocked at how the crowd cheers that. Hulk slugs away in the corner, but Rock fires back with chops, so Hogan takes him down and chokes him out as they do a weird dynamic where Hogan does the cheapest heel shit possible but still gets cheered like a hero. Rock fights back and charges, allowing Hogan to throw him over the top rope for a brawl on the floor as Hogan preps the table. Rock fights back and Hulk clotheslines him to cut that off. Back in, the ref is bumped, as Rock gets the spinebuster and Scorpion King deathlock with no ref. At this point the crowd completely turns on the Rock, so Hulk goes low and hits Rocky III Bottom, for two. Hulk whips him with the weight belt, but Rock comes back with a DDT, pissing off the crowd even more, and then whips Hogan himself to set up the real Rock Bottom, for two. And then Hogan hulks up as Toronto has a collective fucking heart attack, like if the Leafs ever won anything again but this was something that ACTUALLY HAPPENED, and the big boot and legdrop get two. Another big boot, but the legdrop misses like the Leafs missing the playoffs, and 2 Rock Bottoms sets up the People’s Elbow this time and that finishes at 16:21. But to say Hogan won the war in this one would be an understatement given what happened afterwards. And yeah, I still love this match after initially hating it and it 100% should have closed the show given that it’s all over the advertising and promotion as the face of the show to this day. ****
And then of course Hogan, the Einstein level master, offers the handshake to put the Rock over and make sure the crowd forgives Rock (until he turned on them a year later, of course!), at which point the Outsiders hit the ring for a famous audible and turn on Hulk like fickle Leafs fans turning on their team, thus making Hulk a full babyface again and somehow maneuvering Hulk into another damn World title in 2002. Rock and Hogan do the posedown afterwards, although really it’s kind of a dick move on Hogan’s part to see which side of the ring is loudest because the people on the side with the entrance ramp are naturally at a disadvantage through no fault of their own. It’s just math!
Anyway this was clearly setting up Rock & Hogan v. Outsiders at Backlash, which is exactly where they did NOT go with it.
WWF Women’s title: Jazz v. Lita v. Trish Stratus
Oh man, Jazz, totally forgot about her. For those keeping track, this is the point when you can safely shut off the show if you haven’t done so already. Lita was in a very awkward entrance music state at this point, using the Forcible Entry thing that didn’t work very well for her at all before it got reworked into the more recognizable version we know today. Trish and Lita double-team Jazz to start, but Jazz takes Trish down in a Boston Crab and Lita saves. Jazz with a legdrop on Lita for two and the crowd is like “Nope, we’re good for the night, thanks” and they’re not popping for anything. Lita gets a headscissors on Jazz and a powerbomb for two. Jazz tries a superplex on Lita, but Trish saves and brings Jazz down awkwardly for two. Trish was improving at this point but still no good on the whole. Trish bulldogs Lita for two, but Jazz gets a fisherman’s suplex for two. Trish and Lita team up on Jazz for a bit and then turn on each other and slug it out before Trish takes an awkward backdrop bump on her hip. Lita goes up and misses the moonsault by a mile, and Trish rolls her up for two. Lita teased taking her top off there before the move, drawing a huge reaction, but then seemingly realized that she wasn’t wearing a PG bra and changed her mind, which just looked silly. Lita sends Trish into the corner and out to the floor, but they fight to the top and Jazz gets rid of Trish and brings Lita down with a superplex for the pin at 6:15 to retain. This was a mess although Jazz was trying to hold it together while Lita and Trish were flailing all over the place out there. ½*
Meanwhile, Christian almost makes it to the car, but Maven rolls him up to win the title and steals the cab to leave us where we started at the beginning of the show.
Undisputed title: Chris Jericho v. HHH
It’s funny because this show is a “mere” 3:43 in total, an In Your House length by current WM standards, but the crowd was completely WRECKED by Hogan-Rock and had nothing left for HHH’s big Wrestlemania moment. Also blah blah Jericho dogwalker and all that. Also also, Jericho wasn’t the guy to be working a big stadium main event in 2002. It just wasn’t the right matchup for this kind of atmosphere. Jericho hits him with chops to start, but HHH USES THE KNEE and hurts himself in the process, allowing Jericho to backdrop him over the top. Jericho goes up for a dive, but HHH slams him down onto the railing and then suplexes him on the floor. Jericho goes to work on the leg, however, and beats on it in the corner, but HHH spears him out of the corner and works on Jericho’s leg. See, before you had Hogan and Rock working to the cheap seats with huge moves, and now you’ve got these two shmoes out there kicking each other in the leg and then wondering why no one cares. HHH tries a figure-four and Steph interferes to break it up, which results in an accidental collision with Jericho. Jericho comes back with a missile dropkick and goes back to the leg again and he’s WORKING FOR A HOLD. HHH fights him off somehow, failing to succumb to the spinning toehold here in the World title main event of Wrestlemania, and a clothesline gets two as they should have just called a damn audible and cut it short right here because the crowd is only getting deader. Jericho charges and seems to be trying something like the codebreaker, but HHH just kind of shoves him off and into the corner, and then follows with a spinebuster for two and they’re losing the crowd REALLY fast. Jericho whips him to the floor and HHH is SELLING THE LEG, which I mean makes sense because he had a famous quad injury and it happened against Jericho and all, but READ THE FUCKING ROOM. They fight on the floor and HHH gets backdropped through the Spanish table as they desperately make sure to get all their shit in even if no one in the building cares. HHH is going 30:00 and FUCK YOU PAL if you think otherwise. Back in, the Lionsault gets two. Jericho with the Walls, but HHH makes the ropes, so Jericho pulls him back to the middle as I drift in and out of the match and browse Twitter while HHH fights out. Jericho grabs a chair in frustration and gets it kicked back in his face, and HHH gets a DDT for two off that. And then we get more gaga with Stephanie arguing with the ref before HHH gives her a Pedigree to finally pay off that nonsense, but that allows Jericho to hit him with a chair for two. Frankly I’m shocked they didn’t literally have Jericho blow smoke in his face and hit him with a mirror. Actually I think AEW will probably use that gag at some point, come to think of it. Jericho goes up and sadly lands in a Pedigree, and HHH wins the titles at 18:50. And then everyone immediately forgot about his match because it was already overshadowed. This might have been good as a regular arena PPV main event or a TV show main event, but for something on the level of a stadium Wrestlemania, they could not hope to meet expectations of the crowd with what they put out there. **3/4 It’s not BAD, but it’s not like a hidden gem that was unfairly maligned because of Hogan-Rock earlier or anything like that.
So yeah, I wouldn’t call it overall a TERRIBLE Wrestlemania, but it was very forgettable outside of the one match that I have watched over and over since then. There’s literally nothing else worth going out of your way to watch on the show and that unfortunately makes this one of the more disappointing WMs in history, if not one of the outright bottom tier overall if you really want to be mean about it.