Thursday, March 26, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XX

WrestleMania: The Voldemort Edition....

Madison Square Garden - 3/14/04

Speaking of stacked shows, 'Mania 20 boasts probably the most impressive roster of any single WrestleMania card.  The WWE utilized the four-and-a-half hours they were given to cram as many stars on the show as possible.  Once again they returned to the place WrestleMania began - Madison Square Garden, and in front of a no-BS rabid crowd they put on an epic, if uneven showing.

The show started out with an okay US title match that helped establish John Cena as a rising star with a win over The Big Show, continued with the first of two throwaway 4-way Tag Title matches (unfortunately since either or both of them could've been a lot of fun), and then arrived at a pair of 'Mania-worthy bouts.

Chris Jericho and Christian had a mini-classic that ended with a nice Trish Stratus heel turn.  It was good to see both of them get enough time to steal the early part of the show, since neither of them had been used well at all for months.

Next up was a handicap match that was no mat classic but was tremendously entertaining - The Rock & Sock Connection vs. Evolution.  The Rock returned to the WWE for one match only, and with Mick Foley helped elevate Randy Orton and Batista in this wild 5-man brawl.

In the fifth slot was a Playboy Evening Gown match.  Say it with me - WHAT??  First, was a match like this responsible for even a single PPV buy?  Second, Sable and Torrie Wilson had both been in Playboy Magazine, naked.  So why would I want to see a match that's nothing more than an excuse for them to get not quite naked?

The entire Cruiserweight division was shoehorned into one match, which was given way too little time to amount to anything.  There were some decent spots, but this really should've just been a Cruiserweight singles match or maybe a Fatal 4-Way if it was only going ten minutes.

Next was quite possibly the most disappointing match in wrestling history: Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar.  You talk about dream matches, this battle of monsters was very high on the list.  Given fifteen minutes or so, these two could've beaten the absolute crap out of each other and left the crowd exhausted.  Unfortunately it was the last WWE match for both of them (until 2012 anyway), and neither guy seemed to care even slightly about going out with a bang.  Plus the MSG crowd knew they were both leaving and ripped them apart.  The crowd were the real stars here, since their reaction was way more interesting than anything happening in the ring.  Brock and Goldie would reconvene 13 years later to try and redeem themselves with a well-received five-minute sprint, but this sucked out loud.

Seriously, I'm pretty sure this was the first half of the match.

The one real Women's match was Victoria vs. Molly Holly, but like several other matches on this show it was too short.  It is only remembered now for Molly having her head shaved at the end (which upset me greatly).

And then came one of the two matches that saved this show.  Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Title.  This was an instant classic with fantastic performances by both men, and had one of the cleverest endings I can remember (Eddie loosened his boot so that when Angle put him in the anklelock it would slip off his foot.  Then when Angle charged at him, Eddie nailed a small package for the win.  A perfect way for the Eddie Guerrero character to steal a victory.)

In the semi-main slot WWE for some reason put an Undertaker vs. Kane rematch, but made it a glorified squash.  Taker returned after a four-month hiatus and once again assumed the Dead Man persona (even though he still dressed like BikerTaker, but with a new hat).  This match wasn't even a tenth as good as its 'Mania 14 counterpart.

Finally we come to the main event - the first Triple Threat main event in WrestleMania history.  Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit might be the greatest match I've ever seen.  It's an example of a perfectly worked match, where all three guys executed their roles flawlessly.  There was brutal, hard-hitting action, high spots, drama, submission wrestling, and two sick-looking bladejobs.  And most importantly the crowd favorite Benoit finally climbed the WWE mountain to capture the World Title.

It never happened.....HEY.....I said IT NEVER HAPPENED.

The closing moments of WrestleMania XX, with Benoit and Guerrero celebrating as the company's co-Champions was, at the time, my all-time favorite wrestling moment.  Too look back on it now is both bittersweet and rather chilling.  Both of these champions would be dead three years later - one died a tragic hero, the other died a severely disturbed monster.  But in 2004 this was the most significant celebratory moment of my time as a wrestling fan.

'Mania 20 is much like 'Mania 10 in that the overall show was very uneven, but the good stuff ranks among the best WrestleMania matches and moments of all time.

Best Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit
Worst Match: The Playboy Evening Gown Match - what does that even mean??
What I'd Change: Cut the PB match, give that time to the Cruiserweights, make Taker vs. Kane an actual back-and-forth match, and find a way to motivate Goldberg and Lesnar to actually, ya know, DO something.
Most Disappointing Match: Obviously Goldie vs. Brock.  Just such a letdown.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit - I really didn't know how this would turn out, having a Triple Threat as the main event.  When they added Michaels to the mix I was pretty upset initially.  But obviously this ended up spectacular.
Overall Rating: 9/10


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