Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 18 - WWF Wrestlemania X-8 (2002)

Date: March 17th, 2002
Venue: Skydome, Toronto, ON
Attendance: 68,237

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

The year was 2002. The year prior, the World Wrestling Federation had acquired all assets of World Championship Wrestling, along with the contracts of a handful of WCW talent. Although they got notable WCW stars such as Diamond Dallas Page and reigning WCW World champion Booker T, they didn't get any of the really "big" stars who were under contract with Time Warner, such as Ric Flair, Scott Steiner, Goldberg... and guys like Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash.

Roughly a year after anyone would have cared, the original nWo (Hogan, Hall, and Nash) were brought in to spread poison throughout the WWF. Unlike in WCW, where the nWo damn near ran the company to the ground - both in storylines and in real life - the rogue organization was put down as quickly as the Brooklyn Brawler. Stone Cold Steve Austin scored a victory over Scott Hall in an undercard match (something that didn't please Austin and would be one of many factors that would result from his brief hiatus from WWE in a couple months), while the Rock defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan (and got booed in the process) in a match that saw Hogan booted from the nWo and turned full babyface. And the nWo itself wouldn't last long either afterwards.

Wrestlemania X-8 eminated from Skydome in Toronto. It had Rock vs. Hogan in what was billed as an Icon vs. Icon match. Sadly, it'd be the only match on the card that was Wrestlemania-worthy and even that would eventually be repeated in a B-level PPV a year later. I will admit that going into this one, the show was largely a blank to me and I remember nothing about it. Even most PPVs have something that sticks to mind that isn't the main event, but in the case of X8, I recall nothing. Not a good sign.

Rob Van Dam defeated Intercontinental Champion William Regal to win the title in the opening match. Weird that they'd have Regal be the opening match at Wrestlemania, but also drop the IC title to the flavor of the year. This was a bit of a styles clash - RVD's unorthodox high-flying hardcore style doesn't quite mesh with Regal's more ground-based technical prowess - but this turned out to be fairly decent.

European Champion Diamond Dallas Page defeated Christian to retain the title and cause Christian to have a childish temper tantrum... because that was his schtick at the time. Christian is announced as hailing from Florida, because this was during a time when all the Canadian guys had to change their hometowns from Canadian cities to American ones... presumably to make them more appealing to the American audience, I guess? Anyway, that didn't last long. This wasn't much of a match, but it is the answer to the trivia question; How many Wrestlemania matches did 3-time WCW champ Diamond Dallas Page have? The answer is one and it is this one.

Rock promo features him chastizing Jonathan Coachman for not saying his prayers and forces him to do so on the air... except Coach sucks at praying and Rock boots him off before finishing his Hogan promo. And this is why Coach doesn't pray.

So next we have a Hardcore title match between defending champion Maven and Goldust... and then after a bit of action, Spike Dudley comes in and pins Maven to become the new champion... because it's the 24/7 rule and anyone can pin the champion at any time to win the title. This becomes a bit of a recurring gig throughout the show where Hurricane pins Spike to win the title... and would later lose the title to Mighty Molly Holly (who'd KO Hurricane with a frying pan to get the pinfall win). And then she'd run into a door slammed to her face, which allows Christian to pin her to win the title... and Christian is just about to leave via cab, only for Maven to roll him up to win his title back and steal Christian's cab. Well, that's not very nice. This Maven fellow is a real asshole.

So after the Goldie/Maven/Spike match, we get a performance from a band called Drowning Pool, who's one of those nu-metal bands that went out of style faster than whatever went out of style faste than dog shit in the past decade or so. The concert was advertised as them telling the story of HHH and Stephanie... see, because they were feuding at the time and Steph aligned herself with undisputed champion Chris Jericho... despite the fact that the two usually hate each other. How one random, incoherent rock performance is supposed to bring me up to speed on this whole feud is best left to the geniuses in television entertainment because I'm not sure it did the job... unless I'm supposed to pay attention to the Titantron showing some random video package somewhere... what am I even doing here?

Kurt Angle pinned Kane with his feet in the ropes to end a great match with a lame-o finish. No, seriously, Angle/Kane is actually a better match than it probably has any business being, but there's no reason why you couldn't have Angle win clean here... or at least find some other dirty win that doesn't come across as totally lame.

The Undertaker pinned then WWF co-owner Ric Flair (it's a long story) in a no-DQ match, despite interference from Arn Anderson, who gave Undertaker a spinebuster for good measure. Sadly, this is years before Armed Anderson and his Glock, so Taker disposes of Arn and eventually hits Flair with a powerbomb to win the match and continue his Wrestlemania streak. They'd mention it a couple times before, but I believe this is the first time where they seriously made this out to be a big deal. Ironically, that ended up hurting the match because I felt Flair should have won it, considering Taker had been taking out Arn and even David Flair in the short bit of time he was in WWF. The whole thing felt like Flair should've won to avenge his family and friends, but alas, it was not to be. It wasn't a bad match and Flair looked pretty good for someone who hadn't wrestled in a year (not counting the Rumble match he had with Vince, Flair's last real match was with Sting at the last Nitro). But it was the wrong ending.

Edge pinned Booker T in a thing that happened. And yes, they were fighting over shampoo... specifically, a Japanese shampoo commercial that we never saw... I don't recall it ever popping up on Youtube anywhere.

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin defeated Scott Hall in a really bad match that's sad to watch. Austin was too hurt to do anything and Hall was on medication that caused him to appear somewhat "inebriated" if we're being kind. Shortly after this match, Austin would walk out on WWE (twice) and Hall would eventually be let go after that whole Plane Ride From Hell... which some figured would be the worst thing to happen to anybody... if only they knew.

WWF Tag-Team Champions Chuck Palumbo and Billy Gunn defeated The Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy), The Dudley Boyz (Buh-Buh Ray and D-Von), and The Acolytes (Faarrooq and Bradshaw) (22:16) in a four-corner elimination match to retain the titles.

The Rock pinned Hollywood Hulk Hogan in the Icon Vs. Icon match that some suggested should have closed out the show and they'd be right. This was also the match that planted the seeds for Hogan's faceturn and booting from the nWo (because that was a thing at the time), which resulted in him going back to the red-and-yellow (but sticking with Voodoo Child as his theme rather than go back to Real American, which - save for one specific instance - wouldn't be until a few years later despite countless overdubs of music on the Network would have you believe) and eventually beating HHH for the title at Backlash - sorry if I spoiled the movie for anybody. Anyway, Toronto cheered Hogan while booing Rock, which turned this into a classic Hulk Hogan match, complete with the classic Hulk Hogan Hulking up on Rock and doing the whole schtick. Despite not being a Hulkamaniac and despite watching this years after the fact, this whole thing still gave me goosebumps. In the end, Hogan's miracle comeback was thwarted by the People's Champ, who'd pin Hogan and remembered the betrayal of Toronto. And then Hall and Nash would come out and beat up Hogan, and Rock would save him and at this point, you may as well shut the show off because nothing else is going to top this.

Case in point... Women's Champion Jazz (yes, that Jazz of ECW fame) defeated Trish Stratus (sporting a feisty maple leaf on her rear) and Lita in a Triple Threat match to retain the title. For those wondering, the hometown girl (Trish) did NOT get pinned; that honor went to Lita.

Triple H pinned Undisputed WWF Champion Chris Jericho (w/ Stephanie, whom H was feuding with) to win the title. It's been debated that Rock/Hogan should have gone last because it was the big marquee match, but others in power or with considerable influence were insistent that Wrestlemania always ended with the WWF title match and therefore, that should be the case here. I guess we're forgetting that Wrestlemania XI did NOT feature a WWF Championship match as the main event and was, in fact, playing second fiddle to the Bam Bam/Lawrence Taylor celebrity match. Sometimes, you simply have to go with the bigger match and regardless of what you thought of Rock vs. Hogan, that was a much bigger match than HHH vs. Jericho, which we've seen countless times and on top of that, didn't have a prayer in following that match.

And guess what? They didn't. The match wasn't any good, it was slow, it was plodding, the styles clash was readily apparent here, and as a Wrestlemania main event, this was extremely lacking. The crowd also wasn't into this one and when HHH won the match and got his big moment to celebrate with the two belts - because you see, the Undisputed title was just the WWF Title and WCW Titles until they introduced a new belt a couple weeks later - the crowd didn't care. They were burned out by Rock vs. Hogan. Hell, I'd argue there was still some reaction to the women's match simply because Trish was in it and they'd still cheer for the hometown girl. Shit, even Arn spinebusting Taker got a bigger pop than McSon-In-Law winning the titles.

Yes, I'd normally agree that the World title match should be up last on the card, but sometimes, in rare exceptions, you have those once in a lifetime matches or at least one of those rare instances where you have a match that feels bigger than a World title bout and when that happens, you need to go with the bigger match on paper. Rock vs. Hogan was the bigger match both on paper and execution. HHH vs. Jericho - title or no - did not come across as main event worthy and the build before this didn't help matters, either. And no, I'm not recapping that shit. You'll have to look that up yourself.

Wrestlemania X-8 has one match that is worthy watching. The rest of the show - take it or leave it.

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