Thursday, March 21, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XIX

Despite a pretty bad build, WWE managed to pull off a classic show in 2003, my personal favorite.

Safeco Field - 3/30/03

This is still one of the most stacked cards I've ever seen.  I can't recall any other WWE PPV where the last five matches are good enough and/or big enough to be a main event.  'Mania 19 is really quite something.

The main event was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title, and this marked the first WWE PPV since December 1997 wher the main event did not include Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker.  For someone like me who was burned out on the Attitude Era Big Four, this was a real breath of fresh air.  Angle and Lesnar put on a wrestling clinic that featured suplexes and reversals galore, and culminated in one of the most frightening botched spots in wrestling history. 
Brock Lesnar went for a Shooting Star Press, a move he had performed dozens of times in OVW and planned to debut in a WWE ring.  Unfortunately he positioned Angle two-thirds of the way across the ring and there was no way he could've gotten both the distance needed and the rotation.  Lesnar landed on his head and ended up pushing Angle out of the way.  It's a miracle he squeaked by with only a concussion.  But they finished the match and it was a classic.

How this didn't result in Lesnar's untimely demeez is beyond me.

If Angle-Lesnar was the #1 match of 'Mania 19, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho was #1A.  In a classic student vs. teacher-type bout, Shawn proved himself just as good as before he walked away from the ring in 1998, and Jericho proved himself just as good as Michaels (no small feat by any stretch).  This was a dazzling mix of aerial wrestling, mat technique, and plain ol' drama.  Personally I think Jericho should've won, but his kick to Shawn's junk after the match was a great exclamation point on a fantastic bout.

Say it with me: Right. In. The Dick.

'Mania 19 had a pair of huge marquee matches late in the card, the first of which was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon's violent, bloody brawl that should've been a stinker but ended up pretty damn good, if about five minutes too long.  The match features probably my favorite evil Vince moment, as the camera zoomed in on him peeking menacingly over the ring apron while clutching a lead pipe.
The second match of this one-two combination was the final Rock-Austin encounter; their third WrestleMania match and their fifth PPV match overall.  It ended up being Austin's swan song and allowed him to pass a torch of sorts to The Rock (who also left the company shortly thereafter, but finally got a PPV win over his old rival).  It was arguably better than their 'Mania 15 match but not as good as the 'Mania 17 one.
The often forgotten match of this "quintuple main event" was Triple H vs. Booker T for the World Title - a match many dismissed as a two-star affair, but one I thought was pretty great.  The buildup to it was terrible (a racial angle without the company having the balls to call it a racial angle), and the wrong man won (the way the hype played out the face absolutely should've prevailed), but taken by itself the match was really strong.

The remaining four matches ranged from pretty bad (Undertaker vs. Big Show & Albert) to pretty good (Team Angle vs. Benoit/Rhyno vs. Los Guerreros), and outside of some poor time management (cutting the World Tag match from the show in favor of the Miller Lite Girls and Limp Bizkit), the show is good to great almost all the way through.

In the pantheon of WrestleManias I've been torn between 17 and 19, but I think I have to place this one at the top of the heap.  There's just never been a show this stacked, and while 'Mania 17 basically couldn't NOT be good (it was the WWF at its apex, firing on all cylinders and exploding with star power), 'Mania 19 suffered from really poor buildup in several cases (Triple H-Booker, Vince-Hogan, Angle-Lesnar, due to uncertainty over Angle's physical condition) and yet the resulting PPV was spectacular. 

Best Match: Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (just by a hair)
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Big Show/Albert (only bad match on the show)
What I'd Change: Cut the Miller Lite Girls and Limpety Bizkit, put the RVD & Kane vs. Lance Storm & Chief Morley World Tag match back on the PPV, and cut five minutes from Vince-Hogan and tack it onto the Cruiserweight Title match.
Most Disappointing Match: Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio.  It wasn't bad, but it was far too short to amount to anything.  This match deserved to be a ten-minute hot opener.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon - My expectations for this were zero, so the fact that I was entertained by it is significant.
Overall Rating: 10/10 - The good stuff is so good and plentiful I can't justify anything lower.  This is WWE's greatest PPV of all time.

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