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 Silver Part One - The Double Main Event

Saturday, February 13, 2010

(the links are at the bottom)
Wrestlemania Silver is coming soon from Houston, probably the very beginning of April.  Our last show was the Rumble.

There is a double main event; we'll set that up here, later this month will come part two of the Road to Silver - and then one more step in March will finish us up.  Below is the full main event history of Wrestlemania - plus the complete Wrestlemania histories of the 6 men who are competing in the double main event at Silver (also, links, to all 24 previous Manias).

WWF Championship: Chris Jericho v. The Messiah Shawn Michaels
It's a rematch from XXI (Shawn won) the histories of the two men and how this match fits in the eternal Hart/Clique narrative is below.  But here - we left off at the Rumble with a returning Michaels, gone since XXIV (except for constant video reminders of his being the only man in WWF history to ever hold ten belts) superkicking Jericho cold after Jericho's title defense over HHH-M. 

At the close of RAW the following night, Michaels cuts a promo where he burns his old gear.

The short haired Michaels, now dressed all in white, says 20 years ago, The Heartbreak Kid competed at his very first Wrestlemania.  And for 20 years, the HeartBreak Kid spilled his blood for the entertainment of the WWE Universe (kidding). 

No - he spilled his blood for the entertainment of the fans. 

But no more.

Shawn says he's not here to condemn the fans - not here to rail anymore about how they don't appreciate him - the Heartbreak Kid won ten titles, more than anyone in WWF history - that's plenty of appreciation.

But it's time to stop.  Not stop wrestling - but stop wrestling for entertainment.

Because the last thing WWF fans need is to be entertained - the last thing Americans need right now is to be entertained - you people need a wake up call - you people, the WWF fans, the United States - you people have lost your way.  It used to be that we had a moral compass - that we understood right and wrong - there were principles, virtues, given to us whole by our savior, Jesus Christ, that we accepted (if Shawn were to get choked up, that would be good) and we have just lost our way.  You know it.  You know it in the music we listen to - in the movies we watch - you can see every element of our culture completely on the wrong track - from the man, Barack Hussein Obama, who somehow sits in the White House all the way to your house - we have taken the wrong turn.  Abortion is legal but prayer in school is not.  We have taken the wrong turn and judgment - righteous judgment will be passed against us.  You and me. 

We don't need more entertainment.  We need to be woken up.  We need to be saved.

I will spill my blood again.  I will spill my blood in my home state of Texas at Wrestlemania Silver.

More importantly, I will spill Chris Jericho's blood.  He wears that pink and black as if those colors are to be honored - wears that pink and black as if those colors represented anything other than the last member of a disgusting legacy.  Everyone in this arena knows the last thing the WWF needs is a champion in any way associated with the Hart Family.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  I can't change the hearts and minds of Americans overnight.  I can't show them how off track they've gotten.

But I can show you.  I can get on our biggest stage - and I can defeat Chris Jericho and reclaim the WWF title belt for the glory of my Heavenly Father - I can spill Chris Jericho's blood, the blood of the Hart Foundation, and the WWF can be cleansed in that blood.  We can take one step at Wrestlemania Silver.  One step to save our collective soul.

But to do that - we first need to, once and for all, kill the Heartbreak Kid.  Kill the man I used to be.  And since no one for 20 years has been able to do it - I will do it.  I will kill the Heartbreak Kid.

And that's where Michaels sets his old gear on fire, he dumps it in a trash can - his gear, dolls, posters - all the iconographic imagery of his two decades in the WWF - of the ten title wins - remember, since 24 we have been bombarded with these images - built for the glory of Shawn Michaels - and now he is setting fire to all of it - a raging fire in mid ring.  Michaels says the Heart Break Kid is dead.  But the Messiah is risen.  The Messiah, Shawn Michaels is risen and at Silver will begin to lead his people out of the wilderness. 

At Fight Night - Steamboat brings out Jericho and has a contract in his hand.  Steamboat says Chris Jericho is the WWF Champion, he has never wrestled in a main event at Mania before - but at Silver - he will be defending his title - and defending it against Shawn Michaels.  Michaels enters - he and Jericho go nose to nose - Steamboat says they will not wrestle, either of them, before Mania - Jericho says he's not there to talk to Michaels, he's given Shawn Michaels all the syllables he's ever going to give him - he just wants to say one thing - he couldn't care less about what sort of holy BS quest Michaels thinks he's on - doesn't care if he's the Messiah or the Heartbreak Kid, doesn't care what clothes he wears or if he gets a haircut.  But he doesn't ever want to hear the Hart Family name come out of Shawn Michaels mouth again - they can go to Wrestlemania Silver and have a match worthy of the biggest night in the history of this sport - but Shawn Michaels needs to watch what he says about the Harts - they aren't there to defend themselves - but Chris Jericho is there, and he is willing to hurt Shawn Michaels in ways he can't possibly imagine.

Michaels says the tree of wrestling must be watered with the blood of tyrants.  And if violence is to happen, so be it.

They go nose to nose.  Flashbulbs and whatnot. 

That's your main event - Michaels is going to cut these tea party promos, "we will not let Satan take our country" - "we start fighting back at Wrestlemania Silver." 

And then alludes to his not being alone in the movement.  Not alone in this country, not alone in this arena, even not alone in this locker room. 

What did he mean by that?

The go home RAW, we'll find out - when Jericho is attacked by Harry Smith and Tyson Kidd, both wearing all white.  Michaels enters after Jericho's beaten down - Harry hits the press slam - Michaels stands with the Hart kids - the Hart kids have joined The Messiah Shawn Michaels!  What will happen?  What will happen?

Montreal Match: Matt v. Jeff v. Edge v. Christian
What's a Montreal Match?

That same night after the Rumble - RAW opens with Steamboat in the ring.  Steamboat shows a clip of maybe the most famous match in WWF history.

Survivor Series '97 - Montreal

The title was vacant - and four men with complicated relationships with each other - Bret, Owen, Shawn, Austin met in the main event.  It was for the title - it was a submission match - one submission for the finish - winner gets the title - the person who submits leaves town.  Owen got Bret to quit in the sharpshooter - then nearly broke down as he recognized he was sending his brother out of the WWF (and, obviously, never to return) and then Bret fastened the title belt around Owen's waist - raised his little brother's arm in victory, and then left the company. 

Why, Steamboat asks rhetorically - am I showing you that clip?

Steamboat then calls Edge to the ring - Edge enters with his tag title belt.  Steamboat asks Edge where he was that night.  Edge takes off his sunglasses to answer - and as opposed to smirking, sincerely says it was his very first day with the company, he was hired as a ring boy and watched with the other 3 ring boys in the back; it was the most important day of his life.  Edge says right after that he started working for Owen when they trained for Wrestlemania XIV.

Steamboat then calls Jeff to the ring - Jeff enters in the Blood Dragon gear - he takes off the mask as he hits the ring, he is, in fact, the Blood Dragon.  Steamboat asks Jeff where he was that night - Jeff says he was a ring boy, standing with the other 3 ring boys - and he had been told sort of through back channels that he might want to root for Shawn, because if Shawn could get there, he'd be helping him train for Wrestlemania XIV.  Steamboat says he has one other question for both of them - based on what happened at the Rumble last night, is he correct in understanding that Jeff and Edge have never, even once, been tag team partners?

They each say yes.

So, Steamboat says, at Survivor Series, you two did not defeat Weapons of Mass Destruction to become WWF Tag Team Champions?

No, they say.  Steamboat says - so, will the man who was in the Blood Dragon costume the night of Survivor Series, who wrestled with Edge - who won the WWF tag team titles - will that man please come to the ring...

And it's Christian.  Which we know from the night before.

Christian enters with the other tag belt - clowns Jeff for a second - hits a turnbuckle and looks out to the crowd like he does. 

Steamboat asks Christian where he was that night in Montreal - he says he was right next to his brother Edge on their first night with the WWF over eleven years ago.

Steamboat says the problem with Christian having been under the Blood Dragon mask at Survivor Series is Christian was not a WWF employee at the time - in fact, Christian is not a WWF employee now.  And a non WWF employee cannot be a WWF tag champion - therefore (Steamboat takes the tag belts from both men) I am officially holding up the tag team championship, for a match that will take place at Wrestlemania Silver.

Fans react as they do.

And now Steamboat calls out Matt Hardy.

Matt comes to the ring, one night after his vicious verbal attack on who he thought was his brother Jeff; Steamboat doesn't get the question out, Matt cutting him off - yeah, I know, I get it - yes, it was the 4 of us - Edge, Christian, Jeff, and me, we stood in a corner scared to death, trying not to be noticed, and we watched that match on the monitor back in 1997.  It was the 4 of us - so what?

Steamboat plays another clip.  It's of Wrestlemania XV - it's the Hardys winning their first WWF tag titles - and then a few mintues later, having their friends Edge and Christian turn on them.

For the last ten years, Steamboat says, the four of you, in some combination, have stood in this wrestling ring and fought each other raw.  Your TLC matches were some of the greatest in the history of this sport - Matt, you and Edge were in the Wrestlemania main event just 2 years ago.  It is amazing that those 4 young kids - (and now a still photo of the very, very young Ring Boys, from 1997, is on the video wall) - are standing here once again, in this ring today.

Steamboat continues, "I have a proposition for you.  I have an idea for a new match - called a Montreal Match.  Submission only.  Winner receives a shot at the WWF Title - a shot that he can cash in anytime over the next 365 days - a full calendar year to challenge for the biggest prize in this sport.  But the loser - just like Bret Hart - the loser has to leave the World Wrestling Federation."

Steamboat turns to Matt Hardy.  "Are you willing to wrestle in a match against your brother Jeff for a chance to be the number one contender?"

Matt, who viciously blistered Jeff last night - well, actually it was Christian, but he thought it was Jeff - turns to his brother, "I thought a lot about last night - about what I said - about how I said we weren't brothers anymore - and I just have one thing to say.  You deserve it. 

You deserve it, Jeff.  You have a phone.  All you had to do was make one phone call anytime over the past couple of months - all you had to do was say "it's not me."  But you couldn't be bothered. 

Do I want in that match?  Hell yeah I do."

Steamboat turns to Jeff.  "Are you willing to wrestle in a match against your brother Matt for a chance to be the number one contender?"

Jeff says "I don't have a brother.  I got nothin' to lose. I'm in."

Steamboat turns to Edge, "Are you willing -"

Edge says "Yes!"  Edge goes to Matt - they go nose to nose, "For two years, I have waited, for two years, since you beat me in the Hell in the Cell, I have waited - and now, I get you in the ring - you and me, Hardy - in the ring - and like I said last night - you don't have a brother anymore - but I do - and the two of us, working together - and the two of you - hating each others guts - hell yeah, I'm in."

Steamboat turns to Christian.  "You still don't work here.  You lost a Loser Leaves Town - and the only way to come back is for the man who beat you in that match to agree in writing to allow you to return."

Steamboat pulls a document from his suit pocket and a pen - and hands it to Edge.

"Edge - you beat Christian 4 years ago and sent him out of the WWF - if you want him to return, if you want him to be the 4th man in the Montreal Match at Wrestlemania Silver - all you have to do is sign this."

Edge smirks - smirks at Matt - goes to a turnbuckle and with a flourish signs his name and gives the document back to Steamboat.

Steamboat turns to Christian - "Welcome back to the WWF - would you like to be the 4th man in this match - recognizing that if you lose - if you are the one to submit - you will once again be forced to leave the WWF?"

Christian takes a moment, then for the first time, gets to address the crowd.

"5 years ago, 5 years ago at Wrestlemania XX - I was the one in a Hell in a Cell.  I wrestled Chris Jericho, now the WWF Champion, I took a 20 foot fall through the announcers table.  5 years ago everyone said I was the hottest thing in the sport - 5 years ago, everyone said that the one of the 4 of us who was certain to be a future WWF Champion was me."

Christian turns to Edge.

"And then you banged his (Matt's) girl.  And you swore to me it didn't happen.  And I told everyone, told these fans, told the rest of the Clique, told everyone in the back that I believed you - because you might be a piece of scum - but you've always been straight with me."

"But you weren't.  I stuck my neck out for you and you chopped it off.  And while you two (pointing to Edge and Matt) were in the main event of Wrestlemania - I was sitting in Orlando wondering what the hell happened to my career!"

Christians hot now - full on hot - and he gets in Edge's face.

"You took 4 years of my life.  4 years of my life!  At Wrestlemania - I'm going to take your career!"

Christian then hits Edge on the head with the mic - Edge goes down hard - rolling out of the ring - Christian then double clotheslines Matt and Jeff over the top rope - Steamboat bails out - Christian stands alone in the ring and screams out...

"Because That's....How I Roll...."

Between now and Mania all they do is work singles matches - any physical contact is between the guys it can be between without giving it away - so, Christian and each Hardy, Edge and Jeff - that's really it - all the brother/brother stuff is verbal right up until the go home Fight Night when the ring is Edge fighting Christian, Jeff fighting Matt, just for a second - broken up by security quickly as the show ends - but even then, still no Matt/Edge contact.

That's the double main event for Silver.  Jericho defending against Michaels.  And the Montreal Match - Matt, Jeff, E and C.  Coming next - we'll set up the IC,  Tag Titles, and the Legends Match.

 WM Main Event History/Shawn Michaels WM History/Chris Jericho WM History/Hardys WM History/Edge and Christian WM History

WM I:  RICKY STEAMBOAT (c) d. Barry Windham
-Steamboat took from Hogan at War to Settle the Score; earlier in the night, Windham/Rotundo had dropped the tag belts, a frustrated Windham went after Steamboat as the Dragon celebrated his title win - that was the hotshot program for WM I.  Steamboat beats him clean.

WM II THE DYNAMITE KID d. Ricky Steamboat (c)
-The Hart Foundation rise began in the run up to two - Dynamite, Bret, Davey Boy, Neidhart were all pink and black heels, they ganged up on Steamboat whenever possible, Dynamite breaking a beer bottle over the Dragon's head on one occasion.  And they take home gold at II, the Hart Foundation taking the tag belts and Dynamite beating Steamboat for the WWF Title.  The show ends with all 4 men hitting the turnbuckles.  The title wins lead to the creation of the Hart Foundation hockey jerseys, awarded once a Hart has won a title.  Dynamite is #1, Bret - 2, Davey Boy -3 (Stu is #0).  Jericho is #7.

WM III RICKY STEAMBOAT d. Dynamite Kid (c)
-Dynamite's ego (and insanity) eventually pushes the others away; he mercilessly berates Bret, calling him soft, calling him fat (starting a big/brother little brother pathology that continues throughout the Hart storylines) and with the flashpoint being Dynamite's attacking Steamboat's wife - leaving her for head with a diving headbutt - the Harts turn on Dynamite - whose fury continues, now raging against the entire world seemingly.  Steamboat regains the strap in the Silverdome, and this show ends with a babyface quartet of champions (Harts and Savage, who is the IC Champ) all holding up their belts to the crowd. 

WM IV. DYNAMITE KID d. Ricky Steamboat (c)
-This was a Loser Leaves Town - after 3 years of constant hatred between the two men (and now, between DYK and everyone) it finally had to end - and it did, but with the babyface hero Steamboat leaving the WWF.  Steamboat offered Dynamite a handshake after the culmination of their incredible feud - but Dynamite screamed at him "Get out of my ring - get the hell out of my ring." The boys flooded the aisle, a highlight package played - everyone cried - but Dynamite stayed in the ring, holding his title belt defiantly in the air. 

WM V. RANDY SAVAGE (c) d. Bret Hart
-Savage took from Dynamite at Survivor Series, which ended his run with the company; at WM IV, Bret took the IC from Savage in a babyface matchup, with Bret and Randy positioned as near equals, if Bret was a step behind Randy maybe, looked up to him a little bit in a brotherly sort of way, Randy replacing DYK in sort of the way real world Vince replaced Stu in Bret's life.  Subtext.  Randy kept clean. 

This was Shawn's first Mania - he and Marty lost a tag title shot to the Brainbusters.

WM VI CURT HENNIG (c) d. Randy Savage
Savage moved from the babyface program against Bret to what he thought was a babyface program against a newly turned Hennig, who, by all appearances, had been kicked out of the Heenan Family in favor of Rick Rude.  But it was a swerve, Hennig was still with Bobby and they used chicanery to take Savage's strap - the program then saw  Liz get knocked out by Hennig - which set Savage aflame, and after months of an angry Savage the revenge match was here - but still, Randy couldn't overcome Hennig - he loses clean here and Mr Perfect retains the title. 

Shawn had turned heel a year later, and turned heel not just on Marty - but on Bret, Bret had taken over the protective role, aiding the Rockers in their feud with the older, grizzled Brainbusters - when Shawn was starting to morph his personality in to cocky babyface, Bret attempted to talk him from the turn.  Shawn didn't listen, put Marty through the plate glass, and went after Bret's IC belt here at VI.  Bret kept.

WM VII CURT HENNIG (c) d. Randy Savage
This was the 5th PPV match between Hennig and Savage - and Hennig won all of them; Savage had gone completely, actionably unhinged in the past year, this is where we saw the introduction of the WWF fork, which Savage implanted in Hennig's forehead.  Heenan got his own security to guard Perfect, always looking over his shoulder at another brutal Savage sneak attack.  Savage began to scare the little children, watching his early 90s Machomania without benefit of 21st century anti-depressants.  Savage had to put his career on the line to get this title shot - he hit 3 elbowdrops - he kicked out of the PerfectPlex - but still dropped the fall.  He and Liz did the reunification hug postmatch. 

Shawn's year and a half long feud with Marty seemed to end here, Jannetty finally able to beat Michaels, who loses again at Wrestlemania.

WM VIII BRET HART d. Ric Flair (c)
Hennig dropped to Davey Boy - Davey Boy dropped to Flair and here we are.  Flair, with Hennig as his second and Bobby as his manager hooked up with Michaels in this run - in fact, the last match on Saturday Night's main event was Bret and Owen tagging against Flair and Michaels - Bret wins his first WWF Title here, Hennig turns face postmatch.  The full Hart Family floods the ring as the show ends -

Including Owen, who beat Shawn earlier in the evening - Shawn and Owen broke in the same night, working dark before SummerSlam '88 (like Bret and Dynamite worked dark before the first Mania).  Shawn still yet to win at WM.

WM IX BRET HART (c) d. Razor Ramon
The Clique was beginning to form a year later - Razor and the IC Champ - Michaels had become friends attacking the old WWF guard - and in response - Hennig and Bret began to also form a friendship.  Bret and Michaels had long disliked each other - and Hennig and Razor's long ago tag team was part of the dual storyline, as their split was said to be acrimonious.  At Mania - Shawn came in the IC Champ and left the IC Champ, beating Hennig for his first Mania win.  Bret kept in the main event - beating Razor - Michaels ran in - as did Hennig - and that led to the debut of Diesel - who wiped out the babyfaces and it was the Clique who stood tall at Mania's end. 

WM X. OWEN HART d. Bret Hart (c)
A year later, Bret was still champ - but a disgruntled champ - as he felt unappreciated by the WWF fans and by his own family.  He had seen the fans take to the Undertaker, preferring him in their feud (that ended with the Taker submitting) and had seen Owen (with whom he could have that big brother/little brother Hart relationship, but this time as the big brother) move away from Bret to become Savage's protegee (that relationship didn't end well either).  At Savage's urging - Owen challenged Bret for the title here - a "who is the better man" program.

And the IC program was the champion Shawn along with all of his Clique-mates against Razor, who had turned face.  Shawn kept against Razor at the Rumble, which, postmatch, involved the Clique bringing a ladder into the ring and Shawn elbowdropped Razor from the top.  So, this became the Ladder Match.

Owen beat Bret - the full family - all the babyfaces - came to the ring to congratulate him, while Bret fumed in the aisle and walked away.  And earlier Shawn lost his strap, WM being a chamber of disappointment once again for the HeartBreak Kid. 

WM XI. BRET HART d. Shawn Michaels (c)
Shawn's first WM main event; he came in as a Triple Crown holding WWF Champ - but left submitting to the sharpshooter.  That "brother vs. brother" dynamic at X drove the storyline through the whole year - Bret went full heel while the rest of the Harts were faces - and Michaels went full face while the rest of the Clique were heels; it created a curious dynamic in the lead up to this match - the Clique and Harts had a full on brawl - with Bret standing with his family and Michaels standing with his - but then the intra-family feud took over - and Bret and Shawn found themselves fighting off their groups.  Even with the terribly bad blood within the squads - they still chose their guy over the other clan. 

XII was the Iron Man match - babyface Shawn, heel Bret.  It was Shawn's first singles victory over Bret, the brother against brother feuds had resurfaced this year - Hunter beat Diesel and Owen beat Davey Boy at XII.  Shawn's only ever main event Mania win. 

This was Bret's last Mania (last Mania ever, obviously, I mean, what could possibly ever happen that would bring about any more Manias?) and his 20th PPV MainEvent (and his 6th straight Mania main event).  Bret was a tweener at this point - in one of my favorite Counterfactual moments - the Rumble Main Event (the last ever Bret v. Shawn singles match) saw Austin and Pillman reunite the Hollywood Blonds by waiting for the Clique and Harts to nearly kill each other in a lumberjack match that broke down into chaos - and then they attacked both groups, leaving everyone laying and getting us to this match. 

Michaels walked out, having lost his smile, exhausted from the Clique/Hart drama and he didn't work Mania.

WM XIV. OWEN HART (c) d. Shawn Michaels
Owen was the man a year later - he retired Bret in the most important match in Counterfactual history (Montreal Survivor Series) to win the strap - Owen then beat Austin on a referee stoppage at the Rumble - and now faces Michaels, who had been his constant rival since their debut at the dark match at SummerSlam '88, nearly a decade before.  They weren't alone here - the Hardys had served as ring boys for a couple of years, occasionally doing spots to entertain the crowd and had built up a bit of a cult following - fans starting to clamor to see them get match time.  And in the run up to Mania, they had been joined as ring boys by two Canadian kids, Adam and Christian.  To give this match - between the two most recent Triple Crown winners - Owen and Shawn - the gravity it deserved - the Hardys had been placed with Shawn, and the new young Canadians with Owen, to train for the match.  Owen wins by sharpshooter submission, Shawn injured his back at the Rumble in a casket match victory over the Undertaker and just gutted this one out.  Postmatch, Owen led an ovation for his longtime opponent Michaels - the following night, Michaels left the company in a bloody heap - taken apart by his Cliquemates who said he was a lame animal and needed to be put down. 

WM XV. CACTUS JACK d. Owen Hart (c)
XV was Hardcore Mania, an all garbage match show in Philly.  We saw the debut of PAUL, putting Vince McMahon through a table - and Kurt Angle, rescuing the American flag.  The main event though was a pure science match, Cactus Jack taking the WWF strap from Owen, in Owen's last match.  It was the culmination of a vicious feud that included Jack setting Owen on fire while he was wrapped in barbed wire - at the Rumble, they did a full on death match, with explosions and whatnot, which helped lead Cactus's face turn, which was complete by the end of this match when he and Owen shook hands.  Austin attacked Cactus postmatch, they had been in an on again off again struggle since they entered the company. 

Shawn was gone - but XV was the first Mania for the Hardys - who beat Rock and DLo in a Ladders tag team title match - and then had their good friends Edge and Christian turn on them during the postmatch celebration and join the Clique.  Edge and Christian were taken under Owen's wing - in the same way Bret used to look out for the Rockers, Owen took a real personal interest in E and C, moreso though, as he was their personal trainer (unlike the relationship the Hardys had with the Clique which was just carrying their gear) - Owen gets to be big brother, see, in the way he was little brother to Bret and Savage.  E and C transferred their being little brother to Owen - to being little brother to Hunter with the swerve at Mania, masterminded by Jeff's girlfriend Trish. 

WM XVI. CHRIS BENOIT d. Cactus Jack (c)
-A month before Mania, the main event matchup was Foley defending against The Undertaker (and Jericho, in his first Mania, defending the IC against Taka).  But on a memorable RAW - the Alliance (Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, Saturn) invaded the WWF - Benoit/Eddy/Dean were all former NWA World Champions - and Foley and Jericho stepped up, putting their belts on the line at Mania to defend the company's honor - Foley taking on Benoit and Jericho taking on his longtime NWA rival Guerrero.  Both of them lost - and Mania ended with Benoit and Guerrero holding their belts high in the air while Dean and Perry (who won singles matches) also stand defiantly in the ring.   The Hardys met E and C (and the Dudleys, who were the champs) in the first TLC match for the belts - and the Hardys, as the year previous, came away from Mania with gold. 

WM XVII. KURT ANGLE d. Chris Benoit (c)
Heel Benoit kept all year (beating Jericho at the Rumble, Jericho trying to get Benoit to take the mantle as leader of the Harts - Benoit dismissive of it, refusing - Jericho wants Benoit to be the father figure, Benoit refusing) and Angle, unbeaten, stalked him - really building to this match all year long - and Angle, in an all time great Mania match, took the strap.  E/C met the Hardys for the straps again - but this was a 4 team elimination tag title match (Taz and Raven were heel champs, Dudleys were the 4th team). And Jericho and Eddy also wrestled again, Jericho now with a valet - Stacy Keibler.  Mmmmmm.  Jericho was a winner, ending his feud with Eddy.  Neither the Hardys nor E and C won the tag match. 

WM XVIII. KURT ANGLE (c) d. Curt Hennig
WM 18 was in Toronto and the theme was "Legends Come Home" - Mr. Perfect headlined the first Toronto Mania a dozen years ago and returned here to lose to Angle.  Jericho was now one half of the tag champs (with Storm) and they kept those belts in a TLC match, beating the Hardys and Dudleys (Spike and Bubba).  Edge and Christian were in a Clique family feud with Hunter (HHH was the babyface) which turned into a match against a returning Razor and Diesel - E and C went over, getting their first Mania win - but then they had to eat superkicks from a surprise returning Michaels.

WM XIX. KURT ANGLE (c) d. Brock Lesnar
Brock was Angle's main protegee from the Camp Angle reality TV show - but Brock turned, his turn alienating Angle from the locker room, as everyone hated Lesnar but Angle defended him right up until the second he ate an F5.  Angle went over after Lesnar spiked himself with the shooting star press and Kurt rolled him up - Angle was wrestling against doctor's orders - the possibility of permanent paralysis hanging in the air.  Michaels wrestled at his first Mania for the first time in 5 years, as half of a babyface tag with Hunter (and Diesel as their 3rd man) - they took the straps from Benjamin and Haas.  Jericho and Lance broke up when Lance and Stacy cheated, that sent Stacy from the company and began Jericho's long slow downward spiral - this was a Loser Leaves Town, Jericho went over and was without mercy in doing it.  The Hardys v. E/C blowoff came at the Rumble in a match that saw everyone but Matt get stretchered from the ring - the Hardys had begun to be managed by Bischoff, who said they were getting the short end by the company - Bischoff was a heel and Matt still a face - but Matt took to Bischoff's "let's get aggressive" mantra and they went after RVD (managed by Paul E) - it was Hardy who went over here and took his place as the sole survivor of the 4 year Hardys v. E/C feud. 

WM XX. CHRIS BENOIT d. Kurt Angle (c)
3 years after they first met in the Mania main, they had switched places.  Benoit left the company, returned as a Horseman, turned face on the Horseman and had been stalking Angle - Kurt turned heel upon his return from injury (which forced him to relinquish the belt) - convinced that everyone had turned on him, abandoned him when he was hurt - that he had given his body to the company and they screwed him - so he screwed them right back, taking a real maniacal joy in all of his newfound heel antics.  Benoit beats him here - and squaring the circle, he and Eddy (now also a babyface, Eddy beat Chavo in a ladder match for the IC) who four years previous stood in the ring as angry heel champions - now embraced as babyface champions in the middle of MSG.  Perhaps you've seen the photograph.  Matt had feuded with RVD all year, turning heel over the course of the year to embrace Bischoff's tutelege - but turning back here at XX, he lost a tables match to Van Dam - but then put Bischoff through a table postmatch to end their relationship and leave as a babyface.  Christian and Jericho had a long feud that culminated in only the second ever Hell in a Cell match here.  Just as RVD (heel) and Matt (face) slowly switched places during the year - so did Jericho (face) and Christian (heel) - Jericho morphed into JerichoDark, a morose despondency taking over his persona, and he attacked Christian's manager Trish, piledriving her at the Rumble - the violent feelings between the two men led to bringing out the Cell.  The ominous Cell.  Christian famously took the Foley bump when Trish turned on him - that would begin a new stretch for Jericho as the fat, bearded, drunken Lizard King.  But Christian would return later in the evening - Shawn beat Hunter in a falls count anywhere - Hunter had turned heel, attacking Shawn's protegees London and Kendrick - leading to this match.  Shawn's win didn't stop Hunter from a postmatch sledgehammer assault - one that would be broken up by a returning Edge and then Christian, dragging himself down the aisle even after taking the death bump earlier.  Edge/Christian had joined Shawn (and London) in a babyface Clique. 

WM XXI. EDDY GUERRERO d. Chris Benoit (c)
Four years ago Shawn Michaels (face) beat Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania.  Michaels accidentally superkicked Trish dead in the match, which ended her run.  This was full on Clique/Harts psychological warfare - Shawn saying Jericho, in the Lizard King gimmick, was squandering his potential - Jericho saying Shawn was a boring hasbeen.  4 years ago, Christian lost to Kurt Angle and was helped out of the ring by Michaels.  4 years ago Edge was a babyface IC Champ, having taken from Jericho at the Rumble - and he kept at Mania over Regal.  Neither Hardy was with the company.  Eddy beat Benoit in a 60 minute + extra time iron man match to take the WWF title, it was Eddy's only Mania main event.  The two of them, and Dean, as special referee, stood together postmatch. 

WM XXII. REY MYSTERIO, JR. (c) d. Chris Benoit
Three years ago, Matt Hardy beat Ric Flair at Wrestlemania.  The Edge/Lita/Matt real world triangle exploded all over arenas across the country the summer before, it brought Matt back to the WWF as a counterculture renegade - he and Edge having unsanctioned matches before we get here - Flair, the heel general manager, was keeping Matt from getting a contract - but when Matt won this match he not only secured a contract (via Steamboat, the face general manager) but a spot in the Cell main event a year later against Edge.  Edge lied to his stablemates about the Lita thing - and when the truth came out they couldn't repair the trust - particularly as Edge chose to fully embrace his new image as the guy who would sleep with your girl.  Edge beat Christian in a loser leaves town - and then went full on after Michaels, pressing a button Jericho had first found existing the year before - that Shawn had changed, that in the old days, he would have been the one who banged Lita - but now he hand changed and not for the better.  The Clique was supposed to be about renegades, not biblethumping.  Michaels loses that match, making out with Lita in the ring afterward - and he and Matt go nose to nose after Matt's win - which led to Matt (who had previously taken the WWF form to Edge's eye) stabbing Edge in the head with the pen with which he's then sign the Cell contract.  The main saw Rey take Benoit's belt - they were babyface friends aligned against Flair/Hunter and the 51% Solution - Flair/Hunter pitted them against each other in this program hoping to divide them - and it did, enough that postmatch, the Solution's enforcer - Lashley - attacked Benoit, hitting him with a Dominator through a table (as he did with Hogan, ending Hogan's last WWF run) and that ended Benoit's career. 
WM 23 MATT HARDY d. Edge
Matt beat Edge in the Cell two years ago, a match that was built up for a year and even had it's own regular show specifically devoted to promoting it.  Matt. Edge. Cell. 24/7/365. Matt and Edge got their own trainees to aid them (the Hart kids with Matt, Cody Rhodes and Kenny Doane with Edge) just as Matt and Edge helped aid Owen and Shawn before their main event 9 years previous.  The show ended with the GDI group, led by Punk, attacking both Matt and Edge and leaving them bloody in the cell.  Michaels lost a legends match to the Undertaker with Austin as a special guest referee - it was in this program that the seeds planted the previous two years about Shawn having changed began to bear fruit - as Shawn clearly wanted to be viewed with the level of respect the Undertaker has as a veteran leader - but couldn't shake the image of the old selfish Heartbreak Kid - he worked full heel in this match - but with help from an Austin stunner, the Dead Man got the fall.
WM 24 CM PUNK d. Shelton Benjamin (c) and Johnny Nitro
A year ago came the reunification of the singles belts - Punk was the ECW Champ, having thrown away the other two belts which led to the title split (that being the reason why the WWF title wasn't the main event the year before). Benjamin was the WWF Champ, having beat Rey, who beat Book, who won the tournament for the vacated belt - Nitro was NWA champ.  This was a TLC match - Punk won and then took a Twist of Fate from the top of the ladder by Matt - returning for the first time since 23.  Edge beat Jericho last year at Mania - they returned together as seeming babyfaces to battle the heel Clique - but it was a swerve, and now Edge, mockingly wearing the #10 hockey jersey, beat Jericho at Mania to further the humiliation.  Michaels and Helmsley were heel tag champs - but they lost to Cena/Leviathan when the special referee, Flair, went low on Shawn. 

At 25 - we have Jericho, in his first main event, defending his strap against Shawn.  And we have the 4 way number one contender/loser leaves town match, Christian and Jeff both returning to Mania, Christian's first in 4 years, Jeff's first in 7 - and Matt and Edge stepping into a ring against each other for the first time since their Cell main event. 

Wrestlemania Silver.  Double Main Event.  The road continues.

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