Date: April 2, 2000
Venue: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, Anaheim, CA
Tagline: “A McMahon in Every Corner”
Runtime: 3 hours, 18 minutes
TH: As everyone knows, on January 1, 2000 at 12:00am the Y2K bug, in which computer systems that used 2 digits for the year were unable to recognize the new year 2000, instead thinking the year had reset to 1900, caused all computer systems worldwide to crash, plunging the entire planet into chaos, economic ruin, and perpetual darkness. Into a darkness broken only by the lights of arsonists’ fires and into a silence shattered repeatedly by the screech of crashing jetliners and the primal screams of America’s citizens turning on each other in murderous rage, WrestleMania 2000 strode valiantly. Led by the velvety smooth voice of the nation’s coolest best friend, Keith David, the knowledgeable and kind yet firm announcing voice of Jim “Good Ol’ J.R.” Ross, and the adolescent squealing of Jerry “The King” Lawler, the 16th WrestleMania restored order to a world torn asunder, settling our collective spirit. When Al Gore was elected president later that year and inaugurated in early 2001, it ushered in two decades of unbroken peace and prosperity unseen since the years immediately following World War II.
In addition to heralding a new world order, WrestleMania 2000 (aka WrestleMania XVI) also featured the first WM appearances for a ton of talent who’d become WWF mainstays during the early aughts: (Prince) Albert, Kurt Angle, Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley, Matt & Jeff Hardy, Crash Holly, Taz(z), Edge & Christian (their first time in the WM ring, though they were part of the crazy Undertaker lynching of Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV), along with WCW transplants Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero. We’re missing appearances by recent WrestleMania superstars The Undertaker and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. We’re also stretching out the length of WMs again – #16 has the longest run time (and the first one over three hours) since WrestleMania VII, as well as the new 2nd and 3rd longest matches of any WM so far (the 38:00 main event and the 23:30 tag team ladder match). That’s too bad, since the move toward shorter, tighter PPVs was definitely welcome. WM16 has no dark (i.e., untelevised) matches, but it does have a ton of blood, extreme violence, near-nudity, and gimmicked matches – a hardcore battle royal, a six-person intergender tag team match, a two-fall triple threat match, a three-way tag team ladder match, a women’s “catfight” that’s really just a 2-person Royal Rumble, and a “Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match” for the main event that also promises, via the event tagline, “A McMahon in Every Corner!” You’ve been warned.
RS: You know somewhere at midnight on January 1, 2000, some dude in his basement had his power go out or computer crash or something and went nuts until the neighbors sprayed him with a hose to calm down. This is the last WrestleMania before WWF buys WCW and takes what was once a proud company out behind the woodshed with Old Yeller. This will begin what, in my opinion, is the start of the downfall of the WWF product.
- Godfather & D’Lo Brown (with Ice T) vs. Big Boss Man & Bull Buchanan
TH: Well, we jump right into peak Attitude Era, which for me will always be personified by Val Venis’s “porn star” gimmick (we’ll see him later) and our opening act here – Charles Wright, formerly Papa Shango, formerly Kama, formerly Kama Mustafa, as The Godfather, a “pimp” in a 70s Superfly get-up. Accompanied to the ring by tag partner D’Lo Brown, rapper Ice-T, and, ahem, The Ho Train, the Godfather brings his “edgy” pimp schtick to the lily white suburbanites of Anaheim, CA, home of Disneyland, the Crystal Cathedral, and a baseball team named for fictional winged creatures from Sunday School. Two asides here before I continue – first, the Wikipedia article for this WrestleMania links the phrase “Ho Train” to the entry for “Prostitution.” Nicely done, editors. Second, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, starring Ice-T as Detective Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, debuted approximately six months prior to this WrestleMania, in late September 1999. The show has now been on the air continuously for 23 seasons and over 500 episodes, which absolutely boggles my mind. I haven’t confirmed, but I am fairly certain you can find an episode of Law and Order (the original and its 4,208 spinoffs) on television every hour of the day, every day of the week. Someday I’m going to get wired up on enough caffeine to confirm this and write a thesis about what it means for American culture. ANYWAY It’s a surreal sight to see Anaheim’s Gap-khakis-enthusiast crowd chanting along with the Godfather about pimpin (it ain’t easy), gettin’ on board the Ho Train (pro), and smokin’ fat blunts (decidedly pro). Aside #3, the first medical marijuana law (Proposition 215) was passed in California in 1996. Seems relevant somehow, and much earlier than I realized! OH RIGHT, I’m supposed to be reviewing this match. Well, Big Boss Man, aka Big Institutional Racism, is wearing sleeves short enough to let us spot the traitor’s flag tattoo on his arm; his partner is Bull Buchanan, whom I don’t remember, but who appeared in a tag team battle royal back in WrestleMania XIV. D’Lo Brown, who keeps hanging around the WWF for some reason but never really getting anywhere, looks like a chunky Cuba Gooding Jr., which makes me think I’d rather be watching Snow Dogs. There’s some solid action between these two teams, and Buchanan hits a leg drop off the top rope that is pretty impressive to get the win.
RS: I’m glad to see Big Racist survived his on-screen death from last year’s WM16. Papa Shango is now in his third phase of black stereotype and is dressed like Don Cheadle in Boogie Nights. Action wise, the ref is clearly wired to start his 3 counts to make sure the pin will be broken in time several times. D’Lo was always impressive and doesn’t disappoint here. Buchanan does have a devastating-looking leg drop which pulls the win. Glad they kept this match pretty short.
- Hardcore Battle Royal for the WWF Hardcore Championship match
RS: It’s TAAAAAZZZZZ. Why is Taka Michinoku in this match? This match is an interesting concept but I also know that WWF are masters at destroying and ruining great and interesting ideas. Why would Taz get the pin and then walk over and pick a fight with the biggest dude in the arena? Lawler delivers a great line that “it looks like coupon night at the Sizzler.” How entertained am I by this match? I just went to get more Halloween candy in the kitchen and didn’t pause it. If they need to pin the champion, why are they bothering to fight each other? Just keep focusing on the champ, especially when it’s a giant like Viscera. Now Funaki has the right idea – win the belt, then get the hell out of there! I just went for more candy. I hope they have some transfusions ready in the back as it’s Color City here. Pretty sure this match is the birthplace of CTE. What a botched ending after all that shit. So stupid. A waste of 15 minutes.
TH: Like Charles “Godfather” Wright, good ol’ Bob Holly has also been through his share of gimmicks – Sparky Plugg (a racecar driver!), Bombastic Bob (bombastic!), and now “Hardcore” Holly, because, um, he’s hardcore. As is this match, because the contestants are allowed to beat the snot out of each other with any implement that they can grab. It’s also a Battle Royal, which means that the first person to get a pin will be the new Hardcore Champion, then any subsequent person who pins them will take the belt for 15 minutes. Whoever has the last pin is the new champion. Pinned wrestlers aren’t eliminated but stay in the match so they can continue to smash their colleagues with baking sheets, trash cans (of course), trash can lids, street signs, badminton racquets, metal pipes, paddles, mop handles, and more. Got it? OK, good. In addition to Hardcore Holly, the Battle Royal features: The Acolytes (Bradshaw & Farooq), Funaki, Mean Street Posse (Joey Abs, Pete Gas, Rodney – I swear to god these are their names), Taka Michinoku, Tazz (who’s billed with 2 Z’s here but lost one somewhere along the way after he left WWF), the Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Viscera (f.k.a. Mabel), and Crash Holly.
My patience for this kind of thing is limited, so here’s the very short version. Crash starts bleeding profusely from the head around the 12:45 mark. JR remarks that the chaos “Looks like a Saturday night on a payday weekend in Muskogee.” hehe, good one, JR. The action goes backstage so people can get suplexed on the concrete for a bit and Pete Gas (swear to God that’s his name) also gets to bleed like crazy from the head and then spray Thrasher with a fire extinguisher. This backstage nonsense has to be boring as hell for the fans in attendance, who have to watch all of it on the screen. Tazz, Hardcore, and Crash end up back in the ring with a little more than a minute to go: Crash hits Tazz with a baking sheet and pins him for the title with 30 seconds to go, Tazz puts on the sleeper and tries to choke out Crash, but Bob Holly hits the ring at the last possible second to smash a candy jar (!) over Crash’s head and get the final pin and the title. In total, there are ten title changes in 15 minutes – Tazz to Viscera (who holds it the longest, 6 minutes and 51 seconds) to Funaki to Joey Abs (who holds it the shortest, 13 seconds) to Rodney to Thrasher to Pete Gas to Tazz to Crash Holly to Hardcore Holly. It was right there in his name THE WHOLE TIME!
RS: Well. Now there’s a set of painfully compressed breasts on the screen. Sure. Not attractive.
- T&A (Test and Albert, with Trish Status) vs. Head Cheese (Al Snow and Steve Blackman, with Chester McCheeserton)
SIGN ALERT: Chewbacca Fur Prezident. Haha, Star Wars, politics, AND wordplay in the same song! What we in the business call a trifecta.
TH: Our favorite mannequin head-carrying mental case, Al Snow, is back for his second WrestleMania, teaming up with Mr. Martial Arts Pants Steve Blackman (Pennsylvania, represent!) Their, um, mascot(?) Chester is a short Latino guy in a triangle-shaped cheese costume, with yellow tights underneath and the butt cheeks cut out. This doesn’t bode well. When T&A are introduced (Test and Albert, T&A, get it?!?) the camera cuts to a close-up on Trish Stratus’s breasts before pulling back to follow the trio to the ring. My eyes are up here, man. We have a SIGN ALERT that just says “SLUT,” which is beyond rude. Lawler drools over Trish, like a lot. Way too much. It’s unbefitting for a man of his age and reputation in the business, and it’s one of my least favorite parts of WrestleManias from this era. The action gets off to a fast start with Steve vs. Albert. I still like Steve Blackman (and his martial arts pants) and he and Al Snow make a good pair – one fast and martial artsy and one with slower, more classic wrestling moves, though Al even pulls off some high risk maneuvers like a back flip off the bottom rope to the floor and a leg drop off the top turnbuckle. There are several near falls for Albert but the crowd doesn’t seem particularly into it. (JR calls him “Prince Albert,” a reference to an earlier gimmick.) Teddy Long is refereeing this one, which is fun to see. Test hits an elbow off the top rope and pins Steve Blackman for a somewhat anticlimactic win. After the loss, Al and Steve bring the cheese guy into the ring and take out their frustrations by beating the crap out of him. Poor Chester. 😦
RS: I’m not sure why we are supposed to care about this match. Al is always a ring treat. Albert is hit or miss. This is before his embarrassing martial arts Asian rebranding as Lord Tenssi. But as is standard with Albert, the crowd is dead and not into this match at all. I feel like they ended this match early because they realized the crowd was SILENT. Cheese and crackers this mess after the match is stupid. Did this whole thing exist to make a fart joke and beat up an immigrant?
- Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff) – Triangle ladder match for the WWF Tag Team championship
RS: WWF out of nowhere cares about tag teams and wants to really develop teams and talent and stories. So, they take their three best teams, possibly of all time, and put them in a career shortening match. But I won’t be too critical as recently I’ve been watching those Starrcades from the 80s where they had matches on scaffolding. They get to some nasty, nasty bumps here quickly. I love that JR keeps calling it “innovation.” What I think makes this match a classic is the stiffness of the non-ladder spots. It’s not just acrobatics and crashing, there’s real fighting happening too. Bubba lands an amazing butt punch on Christian that will for sure bruise and cramp. Peacock has done something to scramble the “Holy Shit” chants from the crowd but they’re still there. The crowd is so hot. I remember watching this match with friends and I don’t think any of us sat during the entirety. You honestly don’t know who is going to win as this match goes back and forth. Out of nowhere, the Dudleys have control but can’t go for the belts without getting out some tables! Thank God those tables were properly gimmicked. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume Jeff Hardy died in this match. What a great finish. A show stealer for sure.
TH: This is a real “beginning of an era” match, with WrestleMania debuts for all three tag teams. It’s our second WM ladder match since Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in WrestleMania X. (There were ladders involved in the WrestleMania XIV dumpster match, but those don’t count.) In the pre-match promo from the Dudleys, Bubba Ray promises to take the ladder match to a whole new level of violence. Well sign me the fuck up. Out to the ring, where the music for Edge and Christian starts but the camera can’t find them, swinging all over the arena and making me seasick. Production values FTW. SIGN ALERT: Condoms prevent Dudleys. Noted.
All three of these teams are masters of the high-risk chaos that breaks out immediately when the bell rings, all six men scattering for ladders spread around the ring. There’s some scary-looking spots throughout; if I didn’t know that everyone here was still alive (well, “alive” in Matt Hardy’s case) I’d be watching this through my fingers. Jeff Hardy does a double somersault to hit Bubba Ray who’s lying on top of a ladder, but Bubba moves and Jeff crashes knees first onto the ladder instead. Bubba then lays the ladder on top of Jeff and jumps onto it back-first, in a move that couldn’t be healthy for anyone. Bubba puts the ladder on his shoulders and swings the legs back and forth, Three Stooges-style, whacking various people in the head. Edge dives from the top turnbuckle, picking a Hardy off a ladder in-flight and slamming him to the ground. That particular move elicits what I think may be our first “Holy shit” chant from a WM crowd, though it’s a bit hard to make out. Christian is climbing a ladder when Bubba straight punches him in the butt, then gives him a stunner off the top of the ladder. I’m pretty sure Bubba knocked his damn self out with that move. After The Hardys each jump off a ladder onto a Dudley, Lawler quips: “I’m begging somebody to put a ladder underneath the belt.” LOL. Edge and Christian each climb a ladder and suplex D’von off the top. You can tell this is building to a finish spot, though it’s hard to imagine how these guys are going to keep outdoing each other short of a murder/suicide or spontaneous combustion. All six guys climb three ladders set up in the ring: the ladder on one side tips over, dumping the Hardys to the floor; then the ladder on the other side tips over, crotching Edge and Christian on the top rope. That was some pretty damn impressive coordination all around, though I wonder how either of those guys were able to have kids after.
The Dudleys hit their finisher, the 3D, on Edge, then call for the tables (which you can recognize because they yell, “GET THE TABLES!”) They go around setting up tables for what feels like 10 minutes. It’s like watching the ring crew set up the steel cage in the first WrestleMania. It takes FORever. “These damn Dudleys are sick puppies,” opines JR. This is taking a loooong time to set up. Finally, here we go! Looks like the Spanish announcers’ table is doomed. (JR: “Oh lord, not the Spanish announce table!” lolol, I do believe JR’s seen a rasslin’ show or two.) Bubba power bombs Matt through their table, while D’von dives onto Jeff, who’s laying across another table in the ring. There’s two ladders and two tables left in the ring, including one table laid across the tops of the two ladders, so obviously we’re not done yet. Jeff tries a flying leap at Bubba Ray, who throws a ladder into his damn face. SIGN ALERT: “Put me thru a table Buh-Buh Rey.” Points off for spelling, but bonus points for our first “millennial who wants to die” sign. Now Bubba, not satisfied with the eight foot ladders, is pulling out a 15-footer. Jeff lays out Bubba on a table, climbs 15 feet in the air and stands with both feet on the top of the ladder (paging OSHA), and swan dives off onto Bubba. Guess that’s it for the Dudleys in this match. Edge and Matt Hardy are on the table that’s across the tops of the ladders and Matt gets tossed off through the last table in the ring so that Edge and Christian can reach the belts and win the match. Can you imagine putting your body through 23 and a half minutes of car wrecks and NOT being the winner? Hard pass.
- Terri Runnels, with the Fabulous Moolah vs. The Kat, with Mae Young, with Val Venis as special guest referee
RS: There’s no way this will be good with Kat, Jerry Lawler’s wife du jour. I actually met Kat and had a picture taken with her but it has been lost. It breaks my heart because Jerry is also in it and he’s my favorite. Val Venis comes down in a shirt that no HR department would approve. I do wish he’d clear his throat. He wags his arm back and forth like an elephant trunk, it’s weird. JR makes reference to Brad Meltzer’s star rating system for wrestling matches – that’s a deep cut for the fans. This match is way too long, though, we do get Moolah giving a bronco buster to Mae.
TH: On the way to this match we get a SIGN ALERT: “Steve Blackman’s only fan.” Not true, I love Steve Blackman! And his martial arts pants! Steve, call me, we’ll hang out and kick some pumpkins in the garage. Val Venis is back with some single entendre “jokes” and his gross, gravelly voice. “Hellooo, ladies.” I just threw up a little. This is a “catfight,” which I’m against because I don’t like animal cruelty. Oh, it’s got nothing to do with actual cats, whew. The “catfight” rules are that the first woman to throw her opponent over the top rope will be the winner. So basically it’s a two-woman Royal Rumble. With no cats. Got it. Goldust’s wife Terri Runnels is in a catsuit that’s stretchy enough to be moderately see-through. She puts her moves on Val while Kat makes her way to the ring. Each woman is accompanied by their own octogenarian female mascot – Mae Young for Kat and Fabulous Moolah for Terri – who look like a couple’a sexy grandmas ready to hit the bus to Atlantic City. Each woman tries to get an advantage by making out with guest referee Val Venis, which is disgusting. Mae Young, who deserves better, is trying to distract the ref by yanking up her spangly top to show the crowd her “puppies” (as Lawler would call them, which are definitely decrepit Basset hounds at this point.) Unfortunately it causes Val to miss Terri being tossed over the top rope. Mae sticks her tongue down Val’s throat (poor lady), Terri goes over the top rope a second time but again doesn’t get caught, then Moolah pulls Kat out of the ring and Val turns around in time to see her on the floor and Terri back in the ring, causing him to call the match for Terri. Val Venis is the worst guest referee in the history of guests. Or referees. Mae attacks Moolah, pushing her down in the corner, then makes the DX “Suck It” gesture and does a “bronco buster” on Moolah. Kat rips off Terri’s tights, exposing her flesh-colored G-string. I’m actually not sure for whom I should be the most insulted and ashamed in this whole classy affair.
- Chyna and Too Cool (Grand Master Sexay & Scotty 2 Hotty) vs. The Radicalz (Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero)
TH: Speaking of embarrassing, it’s time for our first good look at “Too Cool” (f.k.a. “Too Much”) – Grand Master Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty (I swear to God those are their names) with Chyna in a six-person intergender tag match against WCW bros Eddie Guererro, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko. Eddie “Latino Heat” Guerrero is in love with his “mamacita,” Chyna, and can’t stop making eyes at her, even when he’s supposed to be wrestling. Scotty’s bucket hat is missing the top so that his hair pokes out, which I don’t understand as a fashion choice. He does the world’s worst moonwalk before tagging in Chyna, and Eddie heads for the corner PDQ to tag in Dean to get out of her way. This is Chyna’s first WrestleMania appearance in the ring, not just as a manager/valet. She gets in some halfway decent moves, including a double suplex with, ahem, Sexay on Dean Malenko. I don’t remember Perry Saturn but he is an absolute unit. I can only imagine how psyched Vince was to get him from WCW. This is mostly dumb comedy stuff involving Too Cool and their “dance” moves, but the little bit we get of Chyna vs. Eddie 1:1 at the end is legit – she hits Eddie with a powerbomb, grabs him by the dick, overhead press slams him, and gets the pin, all while trying not to lose her pants. Leaving the ring afterwards, Chyna seems really proud of herself and I feel happy for her.
RS: Now we’ve got under-booked WCW expatriates vs poorly-booked Chyna and an over-used tag team only still in the WWF because one member is Jerry Lawler’s son (RIP, Grand Master Sexay.) If I hear JR say “sexay” one more time… I can’t tell who is face and heel in this match. I assume Chyna et al are the faces since the commentators find her attractive now, but both teams are being heelish. All of these WCW guys are excellent and are ready for prime time, but unfortunately this is a waste of Eddie Guerrero who works his ass off to sell for Chyna.
TH: Some rednecks in Allentown, PA won a contest to be flown to California for this WrestleMania. Her name is Bridgette; I don’t catch his name but I’m assuming it’s Randy or Earl, probably a Junior. There’s like 15 people in their shitty house, and she’s smoking a cigarette next to her child’s head. Bridgette and Randy Earl Jr. are loaded into a limo and taken to a private plane (“my first flight ever,” she says, which makes me sad) then we catch up with them ringside. The WWF: Bringing people together.
RS: This interlude felt like that scene in Boogie Nights where Burt Reynolds and Roller Girl pick up the random dude on the street to have sex in the limo. (TH: Damn, Rich, that’s 2 Boogie Nights references in one post. Are you OK?)
- Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle – two-fall Triple Threat Match for the WWF Intercontinental and WWF European championships
RS: Kurt Angle vs two more WCW expats. The writing is on the wall for the Turner boys. Benoit was a made man in WCW, being a member of the 4 Horsemen. The sound for Kurt Angle’s intro changes – I’m not sure if that was an effect they did then or done post for peacock or home video. I’m a little surprised WWE kept this match in with how much they have tried to distance themselves from the Benoit tragedy, but I’d watch Benoit vs Jericho all night. Angle, though a double champ, feels in the way to me. SIGN ALERT: “Happy Birthday Brandon.” Fuck you and your birthday, Brandon. Benoit throws Angle into the lap of a fan with a Vince McMahon mask, lol. SIGN ALERT: “Insecure. Incompetent. Ignoramus.” Me too, kid. 5-star dialogue from Lawler and JR:
King: “What’s in Edmonton?”
JR: “That’s where he lives?”
I normally hate triple threat matches. It’s like being single and going to the movies with your married friends. But, this one is an unsung classic. I liked it.
TH: Jesus Christ, this WrestleMania won’t quit with the special stipulation matches. This one’s a three-way with two falls for two different title belts; whoever wins the first fall gets the Intercontinental Championship, while the winner of the second fall gets the European Championship. I have to admit I tuned out here a bit and missed some of the action, even though all three of these guys are mad talented. Kurt Angle looks like a baby – he does a missed moonsault spot where he lands perfectly flat on the canvas that blew me away. Chris Jericho is a golden god who’s legitimately exciting and talented instead of the delusional XXL parody of himself he’s become. And Chris Benoit was a superb athlete, but it’s just plain hard to see him without thinking about the horrific end to his story for him and his family. Speaking of horrific ends, Angle comes into this match holding two belts and leaves with zero – Benoit takes the Intercontinental Championship by pinning Jericho, then Jericho takes the European Championship by pinning Benoit. Bad night for Mr. Angle.
- Kane and Rikishi, with Paul Bearer vs. D-Generation X (X-Pac and Road Dogg), with Tori
TH: We don’t have an Undertaker appearance in this WrestleMania, so we’ll have to make do with Kane and Paul Bearer. Kane looks super cool in the red and black suit with one black sleeve, and Paul Bearer is wearing a red suit coat so it looks like he’s going to Christmas dinner, or maybe about to deal Blackjack at Caesar’s. Kane is paired with Rikishi, whom we’ve seen in previous WrestleManias as Headshrinker Fatu (WM9) and The Sultan (WM13), though I could not for the life of me tell you why they are together here. The match itself is forgettable (Wikipedia says Kane and Rikishi won after Kane did the Tombstone Piledriver – also Undertaker’s finisher, for the record) and after the match there’s a bunch of nonsense involving the San Diego Chicken, Pete Rose with a baseball bat, “dancing” by Too Cool, and Rikishi doing his “stinkface” maneuver on poor Tori, whom JR diagnoses with “a terminal case of ass breath, thanks to Rikishi.” I hope they hold a fundraiser for her.
RS: I don’t understand the set up for this match, but ok. I love JR using the term Jezebel. I also don’t know why Rikishi and Kane are partners. Someone is getting pinkeye from this match. I love that for over 20 years at this point that they have maintained that you can’t hurt a Samoan’s head. Road Dogg’s head bounces off the apron when Kane puts him over the rope. That had to hurt. This match is just chaos and exists only to beat the shit out of Pete Rose. Pete is 0-3.
Celebrity Guest Alert: Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP), Martin Short, Dustin Diamond (RIP), and a player from the Anaheim Angels are all at ringside. Not quite Liberace and Muhammad Ali, but better than Donald Trump and a Bill Clinton impersonator.
- Triple H, with Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley vs. The Rock, with Mr. McMahon vs. Mick Foley, with Linda McMahon vs. Big Show, with Shane McMahon – Fatal 4-Way elimination match for the WWF Championship
TH: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s TIME for the Main Event! The McMahon Family is falling apart at the seams, and the whole world is about to bear witness to their familial drama, as enacted through the personages of Mick Foley, The Rock, Big Show, and Triple H. I am deeply skeptical of this match. 3-way and 4-way matches aren’t usually great – it’s hard to keep the action going without someone having to play possum in the corner or two guys having to trade half-assed punches on the floor while the main action happens in the ring. The addition of four McMahons is also not promising. Vince (especially in his Attitude Era “Mr. McMahon” character) is bearable, but I have no patience for the rest of them. Still, in the interest of fan service, I’ll do my best to give it an impartial viewing.
Entrances for this one take roughly 14 hours. All three guys gang up on Big Show early, taking turns hitting him with ineffectual clotheslines until Rock finally takes him off his feet. After Foley hits Big Show with a chair from the floor, Rock nails Big Show with an impressive Rock Bottom and gets the pin to eliminate the big guy. 1 down, 2 to go! A crowd of zebras surrounds Show to get him to leave the ring while the other guys catch their breath. Once Big Show is out of the mix, this thing picks up steam and never lets up. Three very different superstars are left in the ring to duke it out in a series of creative combinations for a total of 38 minutes. It’s pretty damn impressive and I take back what I said earlier. Rock looks like he’s going to team up with Hunter, then turns on him and, with Mick’s help, stomps a mudhole in him. Foley finds a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire (where did he get that?) but HHH takes it from him and applies it to Mick’s ample midsection. Ouch. There’s some more reversals, Mick’s friend Socko makes an appearance for a couple of mandible claws, then Rock and HHH go at it for a bit while Mick rests. Damn, Mick looks tired. HHH lays out Rock on the Spanish announce table and Mick dives off the second rope but doesn’t get all the way there, smacking his face and sternum on the table. The table stays standing, so HHH tries putting Rock through it twice more before it just sorta… slides to the floor. Less than impressive. HHH gets the Pedigree on Foley, then just about takes his damn head off with a chair, then another Pedigree on the chair and the pin. Two men remain! Some fans unfold a giant banner that says “Thank you Mick Foley.” This was Mick’s last wrestling appearance for four years – he returned to WWF as Commissioner and guest referee in the interim before leaving to do some shows in Ring of Honor, TNA, and returning to the WWF (now WWE) before finally retiring from wrestling in 2012. Mick rolls out of the ring and, holding his ribs, raises a hand and waves goodbye to the crowd. He gives them a final Cactus Jack “bang bang!” before Linda McMahon helps him from the arena.
Time for The Rock vs. Triple H. Let’s get it on! Mick comes back one more time to hit HHH with the barbed wire 2×4. Bang bang! Rock crawls back to the ring for the pin, but somehow Hunter kicks out! They take it out of the ring and up the ramp, where Rock suplexes HHH on the rock-hard (hehe) ramp. Back at ringside, HHH piledrives Rock on the steel steps and I was pretty sure Rock was going to be paralyzed for life. They finally get in the ring and HHH goes for the Pedigree, but Rock picks him up and dumps him over the ropes, HHH staying horizontal the entire way to the floor. Damn that’s an impressive spot. The guys go over the padded barrier and into the crowd, fans on all sides of them and the refs doing their best to make a hole for them. A fan in a dumb bucket hat says, “come on” to HHH and he grabs the fan’s hat and throws it at Rock. Lol. Rock suplexes Hunter through the announcer’s table and it flattens like a Florida apartment building.
Shane, who had to leave the arena when his champion, Big Show, was eliminated, sneaks up and attacks Vince, knocking him down and then braining him with the TV monitor. JR: “The owner of the company IS DOWN!” Uh oh, Vince is up and he looks pissed; he’s bleeding from the head. He clocks Shane a couple of times before Shane nut shots him and clobbers him over the head with a chair. It’s like Thanksgiving in South Boston. Patterson and Brisco appear out of nowhere to help Vince from the ring, but as Shane is about to interfere again Vince comes sliding into the ring and nut-shots Shane. At this point my wife came downstairs and was watching the end of the match, and asked, “Why are they just punching each other in the junk?” An excellent question I am unable to satisfactorily answer. OK, I think we’re finally wrapping up now, which is good because I’m getting tired of writing about this match. After punching his son in the family jewels, Vince hits the Rock – his own in-ring representative, don’t forget – with a chair. Stephanie and the announcers are shocked and in disbelief. Vince calls for the mic, even as Rock kicks out of a pin, so he goes back for a second chair shot on Rock, allowing HHH to finally get the pin and the WWF Championship. #family, I guess? Man, the Fans. Are. Pissed. They are throwing trash into the ring, which is how you know you’ve got some serious heel heat. Vince embraces Stephanie as Coke cups and water bottles rain down. We haven’t seen this kind of heat since the first WrestleMania, when Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff won the Tag Team Championship and had to flee Madison Square Garden in fear for their lives. If Anaheim weren’t such a nice, boring suburb these fans might set the seats on fire. Perhaps so they don’t set the arena on fire, The Rock comes back with Rock Bottoms for both Shane and Vince. The crowd really really want Stephanie to get one too, but the Rock wouldn’t stoop to violence against women, would he? Stephanie’s getting in Rock’s face and gives him a slap, which does the trick – one more Rock Bottom for her, then a People’s Elbow for good measure. SIGN ALERT: “SLUT: Stephanie Likes big Ugly Testicles.” Quoth my wife, still watching all of this: “Um, I have thoughts about this.” Fans are still throwing shit at Vince as he makes his way out of the arena, and I deeply appreciate them for it.
RS: God damn the Rock is the best promo since Ric Flair. The Big Slow had no place in the main event and I’m glad they got him out of there early; he’s in amazing shape but still green AF. I’m also glad this was an elimination match, as I hate when these things are one fall. I like that this is where the meme of Stephanie and HHH came from. I forgot that the Rock worked as a heel for such a long time. The pacing of this match is perfect. I got so enthralled I forgot I had to write stuff. Mick Foley jumping short of the announce table is mega cringe, along with the chair shot Mick takes from HHH. Michael Clark Duncan appears ready to jump the wall and win the belt himself and I’d support that. He’s fired up. The Rock is so smooth in his moves, especially his suplexes. It’s incredible to watch him work again in his prime. For someone in the wrestling business, Vince can’t throw a punch for shit. He can take a chair, though. I love a good ringside chaos and this one was pretty good but still nothing compared to Ric Flair vs Macho Man. So, after the match, where the hell did HHH go???
TH: This WrestleMania may be long, but it probably has the minimum amount of actual wrestling we’ve seen so far. The Hardcore Championship was 15 minutes of people smashing each other in the head with various objects. The women’s “catfight” was mostly people taking turns making out with Val Venis. The 3-way ladder match was two dozen minutes of stunts and bootleg Faces of Death footage. And more than one supposed tag match was just an excuse for terrible “comedy” and “dancing.” Therefore, I’m going with the Fatal 4-Way main event, but not just by process of elimination. It’s an insanely entertaining spectacle, our last “classic era” Mick Foley wrestling performance, and The Rock and Triple H, who are at the top of their game, work their candy asses off. And hot damn, the heat on that finish? *chef’s kiss*
RS: Since I found the opening of the main event boring, I have to go to the ladder match. I sat slack jawed through most of it and am surprised anyone walked away from it.
TH: The women’s “catfight.” Val Venis is gross, Mae Young deserves better, Fabulous Moolah was a horrible person IRL, and the rest is just an excuse for gratuitous t&a (but not T&A, from the earlier tag match.) Zero stars.
RS: The women’s “match” was god awful. It feels too easy of a pick, but I guess that’s because it was just that much of a pile of fleshy shit.
Oh Sh!t Moment
RS: I think I have 2. Mick Foley short-jumping the announce table and eating it hard. The second is the totally botched finish of the hardcore title match.
TH: Probably something from that Fatal 4-Way main event. Is it Shane killing his dad with a chair or busting him open with a TV monitor? Is it the McMahon men trading nut shuts? Rock Bottoms for the whole McMahon family? That heel heat for finish and the rain of trash? I can’t pick, but I said “Oh shit” a bunch of times.
TH: Like WrestleMania XV, this show is mostly a turd, only saved by a truly entertaining main event. But The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs Triple H vs. Big Show is not The Rock vs. Stone Cold as we had last time. In fact, we’ve got no Stone Cold at all for this one, so I’m rating this a 2.0 out of 5, a half-star downgrade from WM15. Other negatives are the preponderance of special stipulation matches, the offensive women’s “catfight” (just the tip of the rampant sexism from this era), too much dumb comedy, and too many random team-ups. Positives for this show are Eddie Guerrero, the ladder match which, while not really my thing, I still have to recognize as perhaps the sine qua non of the genre, and of course the main event, particularly the Rock vs. Triple H when they actually get down to wrestling. My advice is to sample this one for a great encapsulation of the Attitude Era.
RS: Of all the mediocre WrestleMania, this is the most mediocre. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. The TLC match is pretty good, the Angle/Jericho/Benoit triple threat is an overlooked classic. While Foley is great in the main event, the match is bloated and WWF really missed the mark that the fans wanted a true HHH/Rock main event. I think I give this, the last WrestleMania of the Monday Night Wars era, a 2.5 out of 5. This WrestleMania already shows WWF doesn’t know what to do with the WCW folks fleeing their sinking ship.
Paul Bearer, d. 2013
Chris Benoit, d. 2007
Big Boss Man, d. 2004
Dustin Diamond, d. 2021
Michael Clarke Duncan, 2012
Mary Lillian Ellison (Fabulous Moolah), d. 2007
Howard Finkel, d. 2020
Nelson Frazier Jr. aka Viscera, aka Mabel, d. 2014
Eddie Guerrero, d. 2005
Brian Christopher Lawler (Grand Master Sexay), d. 2018
Joan Laurer (Chyna), d. 2016
Michael John Lockwood, aka Crash Holly, d. 2003
Andrew Martin (Test), d. 2009
Pat Patterson, d. 2020
Johnnie Mae Young, d. 2014