Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: X-Seven

The Attitude Era reaches its peak with a milestone WrestleMania....

Reliant Astrodome - 4/1/01

Quite simply a masterpiece.  Not only one of the best WrestleManias of all time, but one of the greatest wrestling cards ever assembled.  'Mania 17 was the first PPV that was universally regarded as unequivocally superior to WrestleMania III, both in terms of the in-ring product and the scope of the show.  Hogan vs. Andre may still be the biggest single match ever promoted, but Rock-Austin II was a monumental event and a Match of the Year contender to boot.

This show is generally considered the climax of the Attitude era, and took place only about a week after the WWF finally conquered and absorbed WCW.  The wrestling industry would never be the same.  The two biggest stars of the late 90s boom squared off for the second time at WrestleMania.  It was Hogan-Andre and Hogan-Warrior rolled into one.

Rock vs. Austin overshadowed its 'Mania 15 counterpart in every respect, featuring better action, an epic 28-minute running time, and a major heel turn.  Both men gushed blood by the end, and Vince McMahon got involved, sliding Austin a chair, which he used to bludgeon The Rock unmercifully to get the pin after the Stunner failed.  The show ended with Austin having "sold his soul," toasting his evil boss for the first time and signaling a new direction for the Rattlesnake.  While in retrospect turning Austin heel was a pretty terrible business decision, at the time it was necessary from a creative standpoint.  The babyface Austin character had become extremely stale and it was clear from watching him that Austin the performer was growing tired of the same shtick week after week.  Watching Steve Austin during his 2001 heel run was a breath of fresh air and you could tell he was having tremendous fun.

Drinkin' beer with The Devil.

In the semi-main slot was Undertaker vs. Triple H, which was a PPV first.  This was a wild brawl that ranged all over the arena, and for the first time the Undertaker's 'Mania streak was really acknowledged AND in serious jeopardy.  Aside from a silly-looking spot where Taker chokeslammed Hunter off a platform and on to a very obviously cushy foam mat (The cameras should've avoided showing Triple H's landing), this was a very entertaining semi-main.  Taker withstood a great-looking sledgehammer shot before hitting The Last Ride to eke out a win.

On the undercard, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit turned in an excellent mat-based contest in the tradition of Savage-Steamboat, Vince and Shane McMahon put on a fine example of sports-entertaining garbage wrestling, and Kane, Raven and The Big Show had a really fun little Hardcore Title match.
But once again it was three tag teams and some tables, ladders and chairs that arguably stole the show.  Edge & Christian, the Hardys and "those damn Dudleys" topped themselves again with a streamlined 16-minute demolition derby that also featured Lita, Spike Dudley and Rhyno.  The iconic spot of the match was Edge's sanity-defying spear off a ladder to Jeff Hardy as he dangled from the belt cable.  For the third time in a row, Edge and Christian bested their rivals, this time with help from Rhyno.

One of the damnedest spots I've ever seen.

Three bouts fell into the short-but-inoffensive category, starting with Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho successfully defending against William Regal, continuing with Right to Censor vs. Tazz and the APA, and finishing with European Champion Test vs. Eddie Guerrero (notable for Test getting his foot stuck between the ropes for an uncomfortably long time).

'Mania 17 had a couple of low spots, specifically Gimmick Battle Royal (which was lame but short, and featured Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund on commentary), and the Women's Title squash between Ivory and Chyna.

But overall this was an amazing show that capped off the most successful era in WWF history.  WrestleMania X-Seven is an essential part of any wrestling fan's collection.

Best Match: The Rock vs. Steve Austin (It's really close between this and the TLC match, but I'll go with the epic main event.)
Worst Match: Ivory vs. Chyna - this could've been good had Ivory been allowed to get any real offense in
What I'd Change: Almost nothing.  I'd skip the Gimmick Battle Royal as that time could've gone to one of the short undercard bouts.  But otherwise this is an almost perfect show.
Most Disappointing Match: Test vs. Eddie Guerrero could've been longer and had a less obvious screwjob ending, but that's a minor gripe.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Raven vs. Kane vs. Big Show - A terribly entertaining garbage match.
Overall Rating: 10/10 - it's rare for me to give a show the full A+, but WM17 warrants it.


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