Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: X8

The nWo invades WrestleMania, while the WWF Champion feuds with a bulldog....

Skydome - 3/17/02

Here's an example of a PPV far exceeding my expectations.  At the time I was not very excited about most of the show and figured everything other than the Triple H-Jericho Title match would be mediocre at best.  Bringing in the nWo was just baffling to me, as the WWF didn't need the extra star power or backstage headaches at that point.  But thanks in large part to the rabid Toronto crowd, this show ended up being pretty good.

The WWF Title match looked spectacular on paper, but unfortunately between the abysmal build (seriously, the WWF Champion is relegated to fetching hand cream for Stephanie McMahon and walking her dog??) and the exhausted fans, the match was only about a 3-star affair.  The Triple H-Jericho feud was a prime example of how NOT to hype a big match.  It was presented as a foregone conclusion that Hunter was walking out with the belts and that Jericho was little more than a placeholder.  The match itself was perfectly fine - overdub a hot crowd over it and it would probably gain about a half-star - but it just didn't belong in the main event slot.

In a rare case of a semi-main that should've trumped the WWF Title bout, The Rock and Hulk Hogan put on an incredibly entertaining money match.  About half the credit goes to the off-the-charts energy of the audience, but these two did everything they could to make this bout memorable.  It was just the right length and had enough action to be worthy of post-Attitude WWF.  The one negative thing I'll say about Rock vs. Hogan is that it started the WWE's trend of relying on past stars and dream matches with current headliners to sell the big PPVs.  In recent years this has gotten way out of hand, but more on that later.

Well Rock, are you surprised?  He does this literally EVERY match.

Speaking of the Attitude era, its biggest star Steve Austin was inexplicably wedged into a rather meaningless undercard match against Hogan's sidekick Scott Hall.  I assume if Kevin Nash had been healthy enough, Austin vs. Nash would've been the match - at least Nash was a former World Champion.  As it was, Austin-Hall only got about 8 minutes and it wasn't even RAW-worthy.  Sadly this would be the beginning of the end of the Austin era.

The rest of the show was chock full of solid short matches (Rob Van Dam won his first I-C Title from William Regal, Diamond Dallas Page beat Christian for the European Title, Kurt Angle got a shockingly good match out of Kane, Chuck and Billy successfully defended their Tag Team Titles in a slightly-too-long 4-way match with The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz and The APA, and Edge vs. Booker T made the most of a horrible angle involving a shampoo commercial.), but the real undercard standout was the amazingly brutal Undertaker vs. Ric Flair match.  In Flair's first truly good match since his WWF return, he bumped and bled all over the place to make Taker look like a sadistic, unstoppable bully.  This was another match in which I had little interest going in, but it really blew me away.

I mean Taker just beat the bejeezus outta that old man.

WrestleMania X8 ended up much better than it had any right to be, and while there were no Match of the Year contenders, it was full of solidly entertaining bouts and nothing really offensive.

Best Match: The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan
Worst Match: Maven vs. Goldust - This was a brief Hardcore Title match that led to an ongoing HC Title angle throughout the show.  When that's the worst thing on the PPV, you're not doing too badly.
What I'd Change: I'd have found something meaningful for Steve Austin to do.  He deserved better than a forgettable 8-minute jaunt with an unmotivated Scott Hall.  I'd also have made Chris Jericho look like a strong Champion going into the main event so the audience cared about it.
Most Disappointing Match: Austin vs. Hall - I figured this would at least be worthy of someone of Austin's stature, but it most certainly wasn't.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan - I was legitimately pissed when Hogan was brought back to the WWF, and had no interest in seeing him wrestle again.  But he and Dwayne stole the show.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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