Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 17 - WWF Wrestlemania X-Seven (2001)

Date: April 1st, 2001
Venue: Astrodome, Houston, TX
Attendance: 67,925

(Note: The following post was written prior to the McMahon lawsuit from January 2024).

For the first time since Wrestlemania VIII, Wrestlemania returns to a stadium setting - with the seventh iteration of the show being held at the Reliant Astrodome in Houston. If there was ever a sign that the WWF was doing hot business, this is pretty much the culmination. Their revenue was growing, their numbers were growing... it only made sense to go from the usual arena setting to a much larger venue.

And boy, did it pay off. The setting looked great, the crowd was monstrous and molten hot for the entire time that this show took place. And how did the WWF repay those 67,000+ fans for shattering a then-attendance record? With easily the best damned Wrestlemania card that there ever was... and I truly, TRULY believe that. 

Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho defeated William Regal to retain the title. Good opening match.

Tazz and The APA (Faarooq and Bradshaw) defeated the Right To Censor (The Goodfather, Bull Buchanan, and Val Venis) in a relatively short six-man match that may very well have marked the end of this whole silly Right To Censor stable. The Right To Censor being the group that mocked the real-life Parents Television Council that cried foul on WWF over its questionable content and even used the company as a scapegoat for a couple child killing cases. The pettiness of Vince McMahon knows no bounds.

Kane defeated The Big Show and Hardcore Champion Raven in a fun little Hardcore match that involved golf carts and stuff to win the title.

Eddie Guerrero pinned WWF European Champion Test to win the title in a short match that invovled some shenanigan, a couple run-ins, and finally a belt shot to give Eddie that pinfall win.

Kurt Angle defeated Chris Benoit with a roll-up and a handful of tights in an excellent showcase of technical prowess between two proficient technical wrestlers.

Chyna defeated Women's Champion Ivory in a short, one-sided match to win the title... that she would defend a couple more times before she was gone from WWF. And yeah, going from someone competing for the IC title to the lesser-regarded Women's title at the time must have been a blow to Chyna's ego. The fact that she didn't last long afterwards was no surprise... and as much as people want to credit Chyna for being a pioneer in women's wrestling, Chyna basically treated the women/divas division in WWF as a total joke and the fact that she left a short time after and they never bothered to revive the Women's title until NOVEMBER that year should tell you how bad that division was before Chyna pretty much killed it.

Shane McMahon defeated Vince McMahon in a street fight that involved run ins from Trish, Stephanie, and even Linda McMahon, playing a (more) comotose (than usual) version of herself, woke up from her stupor and kicked Vince in the ol' family jewels. What's the term that JR likes to use? Bowling shoe ugly? Yeah, that about sounds right. But hey, Shane doing wild stunts and killing himself for the sake of entertainment is never going to get dull until he's in his fifties and having matches with The Miz or something. Yeah, whatever. I enjoyed this more than I probably should have.

Oh yeah, lest we forget, this was shortly after the WWF had acquired WCW and storylines dictated that SHANE MCMAHON was the owner of WCW, so we get a shot of the small smattering of WCW wrestlers left sitting in the cheap seats. Yep.

Edge & Christian defeated WWF Tag-Team Champions The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz in the second-ever Tables, Ladders, & Chairs (Oh My) match to win the titles. If ya like MOVEZ and HIGH SPOTS, this is the match for you. More of a spectacle and a showcase of high-risk maneuvers than a full-blown bloodfight, but fuck me, this shit was fun to watch if nothing else. And that's always going to be a highlight in my book.

The Iron Sheik won the Gimmick Battle Royal, which is a battle royal comprising a lot of the "gimmick" talents from WWF past. Other participants included: Bushwhacker Luke, Bushwhacker Butch, Duke Droese, Doink the Clown, Nikolai Volkoff, Tugboat, Earthquake, Gobbledy Gooker, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, Sgt. Slaughter, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, Kamala, Jim Cornette, and The Goon. Commentary was provided by Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan - both freed from WCW exile and continuing where they left off previously. And yeah, when you saw how badly and slowly Sheiky-Baby was moving, it was a given that he was going to win because there was no way he was going over the top... but just to send everyone home happy, in comes Sgt. Slaughter to give Sheiky-Baby the Cobra Clutch and 'Murica and stuff. It was short, harmless, played for laughs, and everyone got paid.

The Undertaker pinned Triple H to keep the trademark streak going. A decade later, these two would have a couple Wrestlemania matches that have been praised by many folks, but I'm sorry; those matches fucking SUCKED. This, on the other hand, back when Triple H was still a superb presence and was willing to work outside his wheelhouse and back when Undertaker wasn't yet completely useless before his later career resurgences years later... this was a fine, brutal battle between two hardened veterans of the promotion. A match that could've gone either way and back when you would hate Hunter for the right reasons (he's an asshole heel) rather than other reasons that don't relate to the television product (nepotism, creative control, doesn't work-uh for-uh me-uh, brutha....-uh.) I maintained that this was their best Mania match and the other two couldn't sniff this match's jockstrap and guess what? That's still the case, today. No bloody bad acting here, kids. Just straight up fisticuffs.

And in the main event, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated WWF Champion THE ROCK in a suddenly-announced No-DQ match (there was no mention of the stip beforehand) to win the title via a McMahon-delivered chair that Austin used to hit poor Rock with several dozen times. And hey, for what it's worth, it was nice to see Rock get a taste of his own medicine two years after the schlocking he gave Foley at the 99 Rumble in that I Quit match. And the story behind this was simple; Austin pulling out all the stops, whether it'd be brawling outside the ring with weapons and such or pulling out the Million Dollar Dream - the sleeper finish that he used during his Ringmaster days - showing utter desperation to beat the Rock and claim back his trophy. The fact that he was so desperate to win that he'd accept help from VINCE MCMAHON of all people - the man who made his life miserable not long ago - to finally dethrone the Rock and win his fifth WWF title... this was both guys at their absolute peak, throwing all caution to the wind and hitting each other with their best moves and thensome. The addition of a no-DQ stip basically allowed anything and everything to happen, resulting in what I'd argue is the absolute BEST match that these two would have with each other. A match more than worthy of being a Wrestlemania main event for the ages.

And of course, we follow this up with the ill-advised Stone Cold heel turn - Austin shaking hands with Vince McMahon, signifying a new alliance between the two that... yeah, people want to talk about hindsight and all that, but even watching this live, I was like, "What the fuck is that? Why would you do that? That's fucking stupid."

Listen, forgive the sudden Fantasy Booking that I'm throwing out here, but if you wanted to do the Stone Cold heel turn, there's a way to do it that would've made sense. The bulk of the match basically told the story of a desperate Stone Cold wanting to take back his spot and he'd win the title. You don't do the full turn at Mania, but you basically plant the seeds for a shift in character down the line where Stone Cold basically became the same kind of big-leaguing stars holding down the younger up-and-comers for the sake of clinging to his spot.

But instead, we get THAT heel turn. A downer ending to an otherwise fan-fucking-tastic Wrestlemania. And I'd argue that even after 40 Wrestlemanias, this is probably the KING of the pack, where the great stuff was great, the good stuff was good, and even the weak stuff was watchable. Never a dull moment, the pacing was nice and quick despite the four-hour runtime, a tremendous all-around PPV with a fucking molten crowd to elevate this further. If you want a textbook example of what any Wrestlemania going forward should aspire to be, Wrestlemania X-Seven is on top of that motherfucking list.

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