Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Road to Wrestlemania XXIII - Part 3

Monday, February 18, 2008

Part 2 is here.

Road to Wrestlemania XXIII – Part 3

Wrestlemania 1995 version stayed in Northeast, this time coming from Hartford. A 3 man announce team, JR returning for his 2nd Mania, along with Cornette doing his 2nd, and once again, as each of the first 11 Manias, Gorilla Monsoon.

Undertaker took his second Legends Match win at XI, going over Lawrence Taylor. Diesel made his in-ring Mania debut as did Jeff Jarrett, both men getting wins. Former tag champs Bigelow and Luger exploded with a Loser Leaves Town that ended Luger’s WWF tenure. The tag champs headed into Mania were Backlund and Davey Boy, a babyface team – The British Empire – and they dropped to Billy and Bart Gunn, making their Mania debuts. Tammy Sytch turned heel in her Mania debut, joining the Clique in aiding Razor, once again, a heel, in his IC victory over Owen. And Shawn Michaels, as a babyface, wrestled in his first Mania main event at XI, losing his attempt at the WWF title to Bret Hart, still a heel. This was Bret’s 4th consecutive Mania main event, and 5th in 11 years. The enduring images are the shots of the competing locker rooms – the heel Clique rooting for their boy Shawn and the babyface Harts rooting for Bret – even though internally both groups were feuding with their representative in the title match. We remember the intensity of Diesel, Waltman, and Razor all cheering for Shawn – Davey Boy, Owen for Bret – and then each side remembering that they were estranged from the guy for whom they were cheering. Harts v. Clique in the main event of Wrestlemania XI.

Anaheim for XII in 1996 – another 3 man booth, with Vince making his only appearance ever on the announce for Mania, joining Cornette, working his 3rd Mania – and for the 12th straight year, Gorilla Monsoon. The Legends Match was a parking lot brawl between former tag champs Jake and Piper – with the Snake coming through to take his only Legends Win. XII saw the Clique cut in half, HHH made his debut and beat Diesel, sending Big Daddy Cool and the Bad Guy (and Tammy) out of the WWF while Hunter and the Kid celebrated. The Harts also fractured, with Owen going over Davey Boy at XII, albeit with both men remaining babyfaces, double dropkicking an entering Bret over the top after the match.

The tag champs were Austin and Dustin, who arrived from the NWA with stereo stunners, they kept here over Chris Candido and Savio Vega, both making their only Mania appearances. The IC Champ coming into Mania also made his WM debut at XII – Big Van Vader – with Curt Hennig as his manager; Vader kept over the Undertaker. The Main Event at XII was the first time the Counterfactual Main Event replicated the real world WWF main event, Bret Hart losing the WWF title to Shawn Michaels in the Iron Man match. It’s as you remember it, Bret storming up the aisle as a teary Michaels cradled the belt on the canvas.

Wrestlemania returned to Chicago, 11 years after II, for XIII. Our first Mania without Gorilla – JR and Cornette on the announce. Undertaker took his 3rd Legends Match, going over Ahmed Johnson and Ron Simmons in a handicap match that saw Rock/DLo/Mark Henry then take out Simmons and Johnson in a coup to grab power of the Nation of Domination. We had a rare cage match at XIII, Hunter going over Dustin, in the Goldust gimmick. The Rock, now the leader of the NOD, got a win over 2 Cold Scorpio, both men making their Mania debuts. One of the best tag title matches in Wrestlemania history occurred at XIII, Owen and Davey Boy keeping their straps over Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon. Cactus Jack made his Mania debut in Chicago at XIII, keeping his IC over Vader in a match with MMA superstar Ken Shamrock as guest referee.

Bret’s final Wrestlemania, his 7th main event in the first13 years of Mania history, saw him lose his WWF title to Steve Austin. The enduring images are Owen brawling with Brian Pillman on the outside, and Austin hitting his Stunner on Bret to get the fall, grabbing the WWF title and shooting middle fingers to everyone in the building.

The first Wrestlemania in Boston was XIV, it was JR and Cornette, now the established announce team, each man calling his 5th Mania. Steve Regal appeared in a WWF arena for the first time, cutting a promo to begin the show. The opening tag featured four teams for the first time ever, the Rock n Roll Express included in a match that saw Scorpio and DL go over. The Undertaker tied Andre and Hogan with his 4th legends win, defeating Kane. Taka Michinoku went over Mr. Aguila in an exciting, spirited midcard matchup, that was immediately followed by HHH, keeping his unbeaten Mania streak, defeating the Rock with the aid of the returning Sean Waltman. And the Clique returned for the tag title match, the New Age Outlaws took the straps from Cactus Jack and Terry Funk, Hunter/Waltman/Billy and the Dogg doing many crotch chops atop the buckles.

The IC Match saw the UFC Octagon, or some facsimile thereof, appear at Mania, the IC Champ Ken Shamrock met Stone Cold Steve Austin with former undisputed boxing Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson as the guest referee, in a cross-sport angle designed to draw in some mainstream eyes. Tyson and Shamrock shoving, getting in some shots on each other, having to be separated at match’s end is one of the enduring images of XIV. And the main event is, for the third time, Harts v. Clique – Owen and Shawn in the second Mania main each for them, Owen taps Michaels in the sharpshooter – the framed shot is Owen applauding for Michaels as he is helped out of the ring by the rest of the Clique.

To close down part 3 of our Road to XXIII – Wrestlemania XV, Mania makes its debut in Philadelphia. In an unfortunate happenstance, Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Hayes are your announce team. This was error all the way around.

XV was advertised as the Hardcore Mania – and it began with Skip McMahon grabbing the reigns of power in the company, and Vince taking his first ever bump, a lights out table bump to open the show.

Hunter remained unbeaten at Mania, he and Waltman winning an Opening Tag cage match over their former stablemates the New Age Outlaws. Undertaker failed in his attempt at a 5th Legends Match win when he and Ken Shamrock had an Octagon no contest when a debuting PAUL~ ripped into the Octagon to destroy both men as his manager, the weasely Skip McMahon, celebrated.

The Southern Men, Dustin Rhodes and Jeff Jarrett both won their singles matches, winning the right to burn the American flag – but they were stopped by Kurt Angle, a visiting celebrity sitting at ringside.

Wrestlemania XV also saw the beginning of a feud which will culminate, 8 years later, in Detroit at XXIII.

The Nation of Domination, Rock and DL, came into Mania as tag champs – but lost those straps to young Matt and Jeff Hardy, who had spent a couple of years as the Ring Boys for the Clique (while Edge and Christian were ring boys for the Harts) the four young men grew into fan favorites, eventually the “let them play” chants began to take over arenas as finally the four men were placed into televised matches. It was an enormous feel good moment as the Hardys, with the company since they were teenagers, won the tag straps here. Trish Stratus, who worked as a secretary for the office and was now dating Jeff, celebrated with them – as did Edge and Christian, these five young people excitedly reveling in the Hardys capturing the tag straps.

But on the night when the Outlaws were booted out of the Clique – interrupting that celebration were Hunter and Waltman – and in the betrayal that severed the Hardys from E and C – that severed Matt from Edge – Edge and Christian, along with Trish, joined the Clique – joining Hunter and Waltman in a monster beatdown of the new tag champs – the New Clique announcing its presence with authority.

8 years later – Matt Hardy will meet Edge in the Cell, in the main event of WM XXIII.

The IC featured a cult hero from ECW, Al Snow, making his Mania debut – the veteran Snow long slogging his way through the wrestling landscape, never able to catch a break – but he did in 1999 – Snow, with the Philly fans all waving the Styrofoam heads, shocking the world by defeating Steve Austin for the IC title. The Wrestlemania ring filled with styrofoam heads in another of the many iconic images from XV.

The main event is Owen Hart, in his 3rd Mania main event, losing a WWF title match to Cactus Jack. It’s Owen Hart’s last match – he and Foley shake hands – Owen waves to the crowd from the aisle – Cactus and Austin brawl in the middle of the ring – as Hardcore Mania ends.

And that ends part 3.

One more part of our look at Mania’s first 22 years – and then, in March, the build for Wrestlemania XXIII.

No comments

Blogger Template created by Just Blog It