Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVIII

Another potentially great WrestleMania ruined by stupidity....

SunLife Stadium - 4/1/12

And here's Part 2 of WWE's slap in the face to Daniel Bryan and Sheamus fans of all ages....

'Mania 28 was a good show.  I daresay it was a very good show.  And it was also one of the more disappointing 'Manias because it could and should have been a truly great show.  It was one match away from achieving greatness.  One match away from four of the eight matches on the card being heralded as classics.  I'll give you three guesses which match I'm referring to.  Go on, think about it, I can wait.....

Imagine my relief when the opening bell rang and the ring announcer declared, "The opening contest is for the World Heavyweight Championship."  Fantastic!  Daniel Bryan and Sheamus got screwed last year, but WWE is making amends by giving them a second chance to fight at WrestleMania, and for the World Title no less!  This is gonna be a great match and I don't even care that it's on first!  My excitement would last eighteen seconds.  One Brogue Kick later, I found myself in the exact same state of unbridled rage as I had a year earlier.  So Sheamus and Daniel Bryan were cheated out of a WrestleMania moment not once, but TWICE.  I just wish I could've been in on the creative meeting where the "18 seconds" decision was made.  I just want to hear the logic that was used to rationalize this booking.  Just a few points for Vince and his creative team:

1. Whether you realize it or not, both Sheamus and Daniel Bryan are very over with a good portion of the audience and those people are really looking forward to this match, especially since they didn't get it last year.  Making this a one-move match will really piss those people off and you'll already have lost them for the rest of the show (which is how I reacted - I seriously didn't care about the rest of the show until Match #7).

2. How do you expect Sheamus to get over as a top-flight babyface when he just won the World Title by essentially sucker-punching his heel opponent?  In what universe is that a good way for a babyface to get over?

3. How much does it cheapen the second most important Title in the company to have it change hands in an 18-second opening contest?

4. Why would you ever charge your audience $70 a pop for an event and then intentionally not deliver on one of the top four advertised matches?  What did you think was going to happen?

Stupidest decision ever made by human beings.

Anyway you all know the rest, the fans were highly pissed and all but ruined the second match, Randy Orton vs. Kane (which was actually a pretty good contest) by chanting "Daniel Bryan" for the next 20 minutes.  Thus began the trend of live crowds hijacking WWE shows in support of Mr. Bryan.  Obviously in hindsight this little 18-second incident helped catapult Bryan to where he is today, but so would an amazing 15-minute war where Sheamus just barely eked out a win (which would've gotten Sheamus over as well).

Bad decision #2 was next, as Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, who was in the middle of a great run and hoped to break the Honky Tonk Man's 15-month record, lost to The Big Show in a five-minute throwaway bout (Rhodes would win the title back four weeks later, making this title change pointless).

Bad decision #3 followed as celebrity guest (God I'm tired of those) Maria Menounos teamed with Kelly Kelly to face Divas Champion Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.  After an okay four-minute women's match, Beth got pinned by Maria.  I'd like to repeat that: the physically gifted and imposing Divas Champion, accomplished pro wrestler Beth Phoenix got pinned by Access Hollywood co-host Maria Menounos.  See what I mean about celebrity guests making the business look stupid?

Oscar Film Journal: Ford v Ferrari (2019)

Dear Oscar Film Journal, 

It is time for me to write in you again.



Today's film is one of last year's Best Picture nominees, the historical car racing drama Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, and directed by James Mangold.  FvF chronicles the saga of a heated rivalry between two egomaniacs, one a true artist in the realm of automobile design, the other a journeyman whose business philosophy is about quantity at all costs until sales begin to slump.  Henry Ford II, grandson of the company's legendary founder, desperate for new ideas, gets talked into buying out the bankrupt Ferrari, but its owner Enzo Ferrari instead sells to Fiat and hurls insults at Ford via the aborted deal's broker, Lee Iacocca.  Ford is so enraged he vows to design a race car that can break Ferrari's winning streak at the 24 Hours of Le Mans annual race.  This fit of hubris sets the film's story in motion, as its two main characters, former racer Carroll Shelby and current track wiz Ken Miles are assigned to the case.  Shelby (Matt Damon, channeling Tommy Lee Jones's down-home frankness) owns a car design company and oversees the project, falling back on his raw salesmanship and chutzpah to up-manage the corporate swine above him.  Ken Miles is an uncompromising expert racer and mechanic seemingly possessing of a symbiosis with cars; he can innately feel when to speed up, when to shift gears, when to lay off, etc.  His lack of people skills however are a turnoff for Ford's top brass, and the company's senior VP Leo Beebe (a smarmy-as-ever Josh Lucas) is always maneuvering to get him ousted from the team.  But Shelby goes to bat for Miles, who proves his virtuosity at the 24 Hours of Daytona with a stunning come-from-behind win.  All roads lead to Le Mans, and the epic showdown between the two auto titans.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVII

What a disappointing bag of crap this show turned out to be....

GeorgiaDome - 4/3/11

Oh man, this segment and the next are going to exhume all kinds of buried anger.  Just warning you...

'Mania 27 ranks at #2 on the Most Disappointing WrestleManias list.  Not since 15 was so much potential wasted at the biggest show of the year.  For the first time in several years, three new uppercard heels were featured prominently on the card, the WWE Title match included a first-time champion, and a large contingent of young, rising talent was given some of the 'Mania spotlight.  Then everything went to Hell.

**Note: I did not read any internet wrestling news the day of this show so any last minute card-shuffling was unknown to me when the show started.**

I knew something was wrong right out of the gate when 'Mania host The Rock opened the show with a pointless, meandering monologue that went on for 15 minutes and actually, I sh*t you not, included him leading the fans in a "Wrestle! Mania!" call and answer.  Fif. Teen. Minutes.

Then bafflingly the opening match was the World Title match between Edge and 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio, in what should've been Del Rio's breakout match.  Instead what transpired was a very good eleven-minute hot opener where #1 of WWE's three new top heels failed to close the deal and went home a loser.

Next was a very solid midcard match between Rey Mysterio and Cody Rhodes that oddly got more time than the World Title match.  But it was a fine contest so I didn't complain.

Third was an 8-man tag that could've been a fun, wild brawl.....had it been given more than 90 seconds.  Yup.  Ninety seconds.  The Corre vs. Big Show/Kane/Santino Marella/Kofi Kingston was given less time than it's taken me to write this paragraph.  Their ring entrances lasted longer than the match.  I can't imagine in my wildest daydreams why this match wasn't simply bumped off the main card.

Up next was another very good match - CM Punk vs. Randy Orton.  Finally Punk would be given a real 'Mania match that went into double digits.  These two told a really great story and delivered a near show-stealer.  Unfortunately as with Punk's 'Mania 26 match, WWE decided to give the babyface the win in the first encounter, making the subsequent PPV rematch unnecessary and devoid of any heat.  Score 0 for 2 for the WWE's new top heels.

Match #5.  Sigh.....  Announcer Michael Cole vs. Wrestler-turned-Announcer Jerry Lawler.  WWE had turned Cole heel months earlier and thus the announce table became a massive, non-stop bickering session for every TV taping.  These two could barely concentrate on whatever match was happening in front of them every night because they were constantly cutting into each other.  Just painful to listen to.  Now I gave this program the benefit of the doubt and thought it would lead to a mildly entertaining 5-minute beatdown on Cole which would really get the crowd going.  Instead we were subjected to nearly 14 minutes of Cole beating up Lawler (?!), after which Lawler made his comeback and won the match, after which the Anonymous RAW General Manager (one of the worst ongoing angles ever) disqualified Lawler due to referee Steve Austin's physical involvement in the match (one of the worst-ever uses of Steve Austin).  Fourteen minutes this match got.

Yup, this got more time than the World Heavyweight Championship.

The match of the night was next, as Triple H attempted to end The Undertaker's 'Mania streak, and while full of typical No-Disqualification shortcuts, these two put on a very dramatic, brutal fight with some great nearfalls.  My only complaint about the match itself is that the final ten minutes mostly consisted of big move-two count-rest repeated several times.  Cut five minutes out of this 29-minute bout and you'd have a 4+ star rating.  The match ended with Taker submitting Triple H in the Hell's Gate, followed by Hunter walking out under his own power and the exhausted Taker needing to be stretchered out.  This segment from entrances to exits took about 50 minutes, which was totally excessive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVI

2010 saw one of the better-executed 'Mania builds, culminating in one of the better 'Manias in some time....

University of Phoenix Stadium - 3/28/10

'Mania 26 had one of the best buildups of any 'Mania card in recent memory.  From January to April 2010 WWE was in peak form, presenting exciting new feuds and expertly rekindling old ones.  WrestleMania XXVI was a grand culmination that felt very special.

Both World Championship matches involved fresh rivalries, or at least rivalries that hadn't yet been beaten into the ground.  John Cena vs. Batista had only occurred once before as a face vs. face Summerslam match, and in 2010 Batista was a ruthless, bitter heel; a role I always felt much better suited him.  In hyping this match WWE referenced Batista's clean win over Cena in 2008, and also had Batista physically maul Cena at every turn which truly put the babyface character in jeopardy.  This is how you build a classic hero vs. villain match.  Not only that, but they provided Batista's heel character excellent motivation in the form of professional jealousy over not becoming the WWE's Posterboy.  The match itself while not epic, was a strong WWE-style championship bout where Cena finally got a win over his larger rival.

On the Smackdown side, we were finally treated to a Chris Jericho vs. Edge PPV match (this was scheduled to happen in 2002 before Edge was rerouted into a tag team with Hulk Hogan, and again in 2004 but Edge got hurt), and WWE built their feud around the fallout from their shortlived tag team run.  Edge sustained an injury, forcing Jericho to find a replacement tag partner, and in doing so Jericho publicly threw Edge under the bus.  Edge unexpectedly returned at the 2010 Royal Rumble, targeting Jericho, and winning the title shot.  Nice simple way to build to a Championship match at 'Mania, and the resulting match was very good, if hampered by a rather lethargic crowd.

Finally we got a Jericho-Edge PPV match!

Elsewhere on the card, multiple newer talents got actual matches instead of being crammed into the annual Money in the Bank spotfest (this edition was won, surprisingly, by Jack Swagger).  CM Punk and Rey Mysterio got a pretty good little 6-minute bout (criminally short by my calculations), The Miz and Big Show successfully defended the Tag Team belts against John Morrison and R-Truth (even shorter), and Sheamus's first 'Mania match saw him take on his offscreen mentor Triple H (in Hunter's first non-championship 'Mania match since 2001).

The returning Bret Hart finally got his long-awaited onscreen revenge for Montreal, against Vince McMahon.  Sadly while the buildup to this match was pretty intriguing, the match itself was nigh unwatchable and about twice as long as it should've been.  Bret was severely limited in what he could do in the ring, and WWE blew what could've been a nice late-match twist.  During Vince's ring introduction he appeared with Bret's entire family seemingly in his corner, making it appear as though Bret would be facing a whole entourage.  Unfortunately it was revealed right at the beginning of the match that the Harts duped Vince into thinking they were on his side, thus destroying all suspense and turning the whole affair into a heel vs. 15 babyfaces scenario.  Not much of a match when the heel gets beaten up by 15 people for 10 minutes.

NJPW Sakura Genesis 2021 Preview & Predictions, Thoughts on the New IWGP Title Belt

This Sunday is NJPW Sakura Genesis, the first edition in three years, and,'s a show.

What we've got here is, failure to stack a PPV.  Aside from what should be a fabulous main event and a pretty excellent tag title match, the rest of this lineup looks entirely skippable, which is pretty inexcusable for the company's third-biggest show of the year.  What are you doing, New Japan?  Sadly, the combination of lackluster booking and COVID fallout has taken a big toll on NJPW's attendance figures; apparently the Korakuen Hall show on this current tour only drew 388 fans.  Ouch.  Compounding the issues with this company is their decision to merge the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles into a brand new IWGP World Championship with a new lineage.  Ummm, why?  Why are you a) scrapping 49 years of your top belt's history, b) scrapping the second-most important championship that was so prestigious it could main event a PPV, and c) replacing the absolutely gorgeous Heavyweight belt with something that looks like the old WWE Divas belt?  Have you seen this thing?  Who barfed up this monstrosity?  

Actually "monstrosity" implies that it's a giant, unwieldy title.  It's not, it's friggin' tiny like the original WWE Undisputed belt was before they enlarged it, or like when they merged the spinner belt and the Big Gold belt into the glorified MLB ring design.  What is the deal with wrestling companies merging their two biggest championships and replacing them with a belt that's smaller than either one?  Dude, this belt sucks.  NJPW should've hired whoever designs Ring of Honor's belts - that designer is fucking FIRE, and should basically be designing every wrestling belt on the planet.  It's pretty sad that a company in such cosmic shambles as ROH now has the best-looking championships in the industry.

There are few things in wrestling as frustrating as a company proven capable of true greatness making illogically bad decisions.  Why do you think I'm so hard on WWE all the time?

But this is neither here nor there - let's look at Sunday's lineup....

Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & Douki vs. Guerrillas of Destiny & Jado

This is obviously just to set up another GoD vs. Dangerous Tekkers match.  Not much else to this.  I guess Zack and friends win?

Pick: SZGN

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil, Kenta, Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo

Ten-man tags can be fun and this one has a crapload of talent.  But it's also on second out of six and thus probably won't get a ton of time.  Okada needs some direction, it just seems wrong that the greatest wrestler in the world is treading water.

Pick: Bullet Club I guess?

Oscar Film Journal: All About Eve (1950)

And we're back with another review for the Oscar Film Journal!

Today's subject is the 1950s drama All About Eve, which garnered a staggering 14 Oscar nominations (a record it still co-holds along with Titanic and La La Land) and is widely considered Bette Davis's definitive screen role.  Written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, All About Eve is the story of an aging Broadway actress who finds both her personal life and career threatened by an adoring fan.  The titular Eve, a seemingly doe-eyed girl next door charms the actress, Margo, and her inner circle of friends, and swiftly becomes Margo's personal assistant and confidant.  But Eve becomes so good and so thorough at her job she begins to wield power over Margo, who grows to resent her and tries in vain to get her reassigned to the office of her producer.  Eve gets herself hired instead as Margo's understudy, and when Margo's friend Karen causes her to miss a performance, Eve finally gets her shot on stage and is an instant sensation.  Thus begins Eve's Broadway rise and the fading of Margo's star.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 25

Time to talk about the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!

Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done, with masterful storytelling, a couple of insane dives that probably should've killed each of them, and a few of the most shocking false finishes anyone had ever seen.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

Oscar Film Journal: Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Welcome to yet another entry in the Oscar Film Journal, here at!

Traveling back to the 1980s, today I'll be talking about a lurid period piece directed by Stephen Frears, based on a play, which was in turn based on a 1782 French novel, Dangerous Liaisons.  Starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, and two young up-and-comers named Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves, Dangerous Liaisons is the tale of a former couple whose only pleasure in life is derived from sleeping around and destroying lives.  Glenn Close's character the Marquise de Merteuil is out for revenge against her ex, who left her for a young virgin he intends to marry (Thurman).  She enlists Vicomte de Valmont (Malkovich) to seduce the young girl and ruin the reputations of both her and her fiance.  But Valmont has designs on someone else, Marie de Tourvel, the devoutly religious wife of a member of Parliament; to him the young virgin isn't a challenge, but a chaste married woman is a worthy conquest.  The two schemers enter into an arrangement - if Valmont can produce written proof that he's seduced Marie, the Marquise will agree to sleep with him.  Thus begins this saga of malevolence and deception, as Valmont seduces not only Madame de Tourvel, but also the young virgin, while the Marquise gets her claws into the virgin's young lover, Le Chevalier Danceny (Reeves).  The philandering and strumpetry are on full display from these two awful people.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXIV

For the second year in a row WWE delivered a shockingly good 'Mania....

Citrus Bowl - 3/30/08

After four years, WrestleMania returned to the roman numeral naming convention.  This was one of those PPVs that completely defied my expectations.  I went into this show not being very excited about anything except Undertaker vs. Edge.  I didn't care at all about the Orton-Cena-Triple H feud, didn't really want to see Ric Flair wrestle anymore at his advanced age, and most certainly didn't care about Floyd Mayweather.  But 'Mania 24 ended up being a pretty great show that really delivered where it counted.

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair was one of the most emotional matches I've ever seen.  Michaels obviously deserves a lot of the credit for making this match great, as he bumped around like crazy, per usual.  But Flair's storytelling was also off the charts and he emoted wonderfully, making the audience really care about his career-ending journey.  The final seconds of the match when Flair tearfully begged Shawn to hit the superkick, followed by the sorrow on Shawn's face, made for one of the most memorable of all 'Mania moments.

The kick that ended Flair's's gettin' a little dusty in here.....

Friday, March 26, 2021

Parents' Night In #54: Rear Window (1954), Alfred Hitchcock's Masterpiece

Kelly & Justin are back after a little hiatus to talk about our favorite Hitchcock film, Rear Window, starring James Stewart as a photographer stuck in his apartment with a broken leg, who may or may not have witnessed a murder across the courtyard of his apartment building, and Grace Kelly as his glamorous girlfriend.  Shot entirely on a single soundstage, Rear Window is full of little subplots involving the neighbors, while building suspense around whether or not Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) has murdered and dismembered his wife.

We'll talk about the film and why it's our favorite of Hitchcock's, our love of Jimmy Stewart, who's hotter - Grace Kelly or Donna Reed, and whether or not we pronounce the "th" in the word "clothes."

Join us for some fun!

You can also listen to a podcast version of this episode at:


Subscribe to our channel to stay updated on future episodes, and don't forget to visit, follow us on Twitter, join us on Facebook!   


Alfred Hitchcock Presents snippets from​

Disclaimer- Some contents are used for educational purpose under fair use. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 23

Here's a WrestleMania I was not excited about, but damn did it deliver where it counted....

Ford Field - 4/1/07

WWE attempted to recreate some of the magic of WrestleMania III for the 20th anniversary of that event, by returning to the Detroit area and featuring another David vs. Goliath bout on the card.  Sadly the one that took place in 2007 was just a little less important than its predecessor.  Kane vs. The Great Khali was a throwaway match that went on second, and has been all but forgotten.

Fortunately the rest of 'Mania 23 was a fine outing, featuring two excellent World Championship matches and a Money in the Bank match that rivaled the original.  MITB opened the show this time and featured 8 men instead of 6.  The action was all over the map and included a comedy spot (Booker T's mini-ladder), some sick Jeff Hardy bumps, and some broken ladders.  In the end Mr. Kennedy took the briefcase, only to be suspended for a Wellness Policy violation very shortly thereafter, losing it to Edge in the process.  Thus ended Mr. Kennedy's WWE push, more or less.  I'm not sure why Edge and Randy Orton were shoehorned into this match when they could've easily had a singles match.

Holy Christballs.....

Ten years removed from his previous 'Mania championship opportunity, The Undertaker cashed in his Royal Rumble victory and challenged World Champion Batista in a shockingly good match.  Both guys put their working boots on and filled their allotted fifteen minutes with brutal big-man spots, the highlight of which was Batista powerslamming Taker through a ringside table.  This match strangely went on fourth out of eight, but set the bar very high for the second half of the show.  Taker and Batista would feud on and off throughout 2007, providing one of the company's best rivalries that year.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 22

We've fully entered the John Cena Era, as WrestleMania returns to Chicago....

Rosemont Horizon - 4/2/06

'Mania 22 reminds me a little of the old-school WrestleManias, where there was a whole host of different kinds of matches and a little something for everyone.  It ended up being a much more fun show that I expected, particularly since I was less than thrilled about most of the matches going in.
WWE was fully in "I'll do what I want and you'll like it" mode in 2006, making booking decisions that were absurdly perplexing to many of the fans.  John Cena was not getting over in the expected fashion, as about half the crowd started booing him on a regular basis.  His match here against Triple H was possibly the most infamous example of this, as easily half the Chicago crowd were rabidly cheering for Hunter to destroy WWE's new posterboy.  The match itself was very solid, partly thanks to the fans in the arena, and Hunter repeated his 'Mania 20-ending tapout in the center of the ring to help elevate Cena.

This looks awfully familiar....

The Smackdown brand's champion Kurt Angle defended his Title in a Triple Threat against Randy Orton and 2006 Rumble winner Rey Mysterio, in a match that fell horribly short of expectations due to the time constraints.  I'll never understand why this match only got 9 minutes when it was supposed to elevate Mysterio to the main event.  It was an excellent free TV match but just an okay 'Mania bout, and Mysterio would go on to have one of the worst Title reigns of all time as the company seemingly went out of its way to bury him in every non-title match.

Conversely one match that got a stupidly excessive amount of time was Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, in a glorified 18-minute squash.  This match was completely one-sided for almost the entire duration and most of the action was run-of-the-mill garbage stuff until Shawn hit an elbow drop off a 12-foot ladder, smashing Vince through a table.  Eighteen minutes for one memorable spot.  Simply stunning.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 21

2005: WWE banks on two new top babyfaces.....

Staples Center - 4/3/05

'Mania 21 is a show that has grown on me considerably over the years.  At the time it aired I wasn't that excited about it because most of my favorite wrestlers (Benoit, Jericho, Edge, Eddie) were being pushed to the background to make room for the OVW alumni like Randy Orton, Batista and John Cena.  I understood why the company was pushing these guys but I wasn't terribly excited about any of them.  I also knew they could never top the main event of 'Mania 20, so this show seemed anticlimactic.  Curiously 'Mania 21 is notable for not having any tag team matches whatsoever, which is a sad commentary on the state of the tag division at that point.  But in retrospect WrestleMania 21 was a pretty damn solid show, even if it petered out in the final third.

As with 'Mania 8 most of the good matches were placed early on the card.  Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero opened the show and while it failed to live up to their late 90s WCW work (and Rey struggled with mask malfunctions basically the whole match), it was still a strong way to open the show and get the crowd energized.

Next up was the first-ever Money in the Bank ladder match, which began a five-year regular WrestleMania feature, and would later spawn its own PPV event.  Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Edge, Kane, Christian and Shelton Benjamin put on a wild, chaotic spotfest that elevated Edge to semi-main event status and would lead to him becoming one of the company's top stars.

Edge finally climbs into the Title picture.

The Undertaker's streak continued as he faced Randy Orton in the third slot.  This match was a return to form for Taker (who had few, if any memorable bouts in 2004) and a real boon to Orton's career after a recent failed main event run.  These two worked extremely well together and would have a series of strong matches throughout 2005.

Bafflingly WWE chose to have Diva Search winner Christy Hemme challenge Trish Stratus for the Women's Title, and the results were predictably awful.  Lita had unfortunately suffered a legit injury at New Year's Revolution, preventing this show from including a quality Trish-Lita bout.

Far and away the Match of the Night (and WWE's best match of 2005) was the interbrand challenge between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle.  These two put on a breathtaking 25-minute masterpiece that ranks high on the all-time 'Mania list.  In dramatic fashion Angle forced a rare Shawn Michaels tapout with the anklelock.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

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 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.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

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.

Oscar Film Journal: An American in Paris (1951)

Time for another entry in the ol' Oscar Film Journal!

We're going back to the 1950s today to talk about the delightful musical romp featuring Gene Kelly, An American in Paris.  The Best Picture winner for 1951 (one of several awards the film took home) tells the story of three friends - a struggling painter (Kelly) who catches the eye of a wealthy socialite, both for his art and his good looks; a struggling pianist (Oscar Levant) who's given up on love, throwing himself into writing the great piano concerto; and a famous singer (Georges Guetary), who's just begun a relationship with a sweet French girl he intends to marry.  Things get complicated though when the Gene Kelly character spots this very French girl in a nightclub and falls instantly in love with her.  He pursues her relentlessly, and while she strongly rebuffs him at first, he manages to charm her and they begin a secret affair.  But she hides her relationship with the singer from him, and he begins to suspect something is amiss.  At the same time the painter is torn between the young girl and the older wealthy art collector, who promises to advance his art career.  This love quadrangle forms the basis of the shoestring plot, more an exercise in style than storytelling.   

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.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Movie Review: Zack Snyder's Justice League

Well, color me surprised, in bleak, muted, desaturated tones.  Zack Snyder somehow managed to snatch an epic four-hour win from the jaws of studio-bungled disaster.  Where Joss Whedon's ill-conceived retooling was stuffed with embarrassing humor, oversaturated colors, cheap-looking costumes, and Henry Cavill's infamous fake upper lip, Zack's mostly original vision is finally here in all its overindulgent glory, a film boasting a surprising amount of heart and goodwill, where we're actually invested in the characters and thus the over-the-top battle scenes feel earned.

Before I get into the details, let me just say that I do not consider myself a Zack Snyder fan.  I liked and respected 300, I loved Watchmen, but I absolutely despised Man of Steel and found Batman v Superman just a clusterfuck of obtuse unpleasantness.  So I'm a control in this experiment.  I'm a skeptic with no dog in this race.  I thought the DCEU was a terrible idea from the start, and the execution entirely backwards; how can you rush to a team-up movie without first establishing the characters you're teaming up?  Why does everything need a shared universe just because it worked for Marvel?  So yeah, I went into this with no emotional investment whatsoever.  

WWE Fastlane 2021: Daniel Bryan's Going to WrestleMania

WWE Fastlane 2021 ended up a better show than it really had any right to be, thanks to three strong matches and a welcome change of direction in the main event.  With one screwy finish, suddenly I give a shit about this year's WrestleMania.  So I'm gonna go pretty easy on what was a mediocre PPV.

The show opened with the Women's Tag Title match, which sadly did not live up to the previous outing these two teams had.  The upshot, as expected, was that Sasha and Bianca had a falling out after once again not winning the straps.  The idea of a pair of future WrestleMania opponents teaming up beforehand to go after a secondary title is pretty goofy, but whatever.  Sasha had Shayna locked in the Bank Statement when Nia knocked Bianca on top of her, and the two got into an argument.  Sasha pushed Bianca but then got rolled up by Baszler for the pin.  Sasha then slapped Bianca to complete the dissolution of their friendship.  So now they'll be enemies going into Mania, which makes more sense.  Not much to this match though.  **

Next up was the Intercontinental Title, with Big E and Apollo Crews, which was way too short to amount to anything.  They had an ok showing with some big moves, that ended suddenly at the five-minute mark with a messy-as-fuck small package reversal so confusing there wasn't even an announcement about who won.  Crews rolled up Big E, Big E reversed but not really, and then Crews attacked him after the match.  Does that mean Crews is getting yet another title shot in three weeks, despite losing, what, three times now?  *1/2

The scheduled Braun Strowman-Shane McMahon match didn't happen, as Shane got pretend-injured while training and sent Elias in his place.  So we're still stuck with this stupid feud at Mania.  This match was a squash.  Braun beat the crap out of Elias and finished him with a powerslam.  *

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: The Piano (1993)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at!

Today we travel back to that grand ol' decade known as the 90s, for a film so Oscar-baity it could very well be the poster child for what general audiences think of overly artsy art films.  I'm talking about Jane Campion's 1993 opus The Piano, starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, and Sam Neill.  Set in the 1800s, The Piano is about a mute woman, Ada, whose father sells her into marriage, transplanting her and her young daughter Flora from Scotland to New Zealand so she can be the wife of a settler.  Played by Sam Neill, the husband Alisdair is cold and unsympathetic, expecting Ada will eventually come around to loving him.  But aside from sign language, Ada's only true means of communication is through her piano playing, and despite having transported her instrument all the way from Scotland, the husband tells her he has no room for it.  Instead his neighbor George (Harvey Keitel) acquires it in exchange for some land, and asks Alisdair that Ada visit him once a day to teach him to play it.  What follows from George and Ada's association is an awkward, unlikely romance, wherein George offers to sell the piano back to her one key at a time for daily moments of affection.  But after a few weeks he realizes he has genuine romantic feelings for her and can't continue the arrangement.  Upon being cut off from George, Ada in turn realizes she also has feelings for him.  The rest of the story plays out as a love triangle of sorts, with Alisdair continually trying to connect with Ada to no avail, as Ada's daughter begins throwing wrenches in her relationship with George.

WWE Fastlane 2021 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

This Sunday is the final PPV stop on the road to WrestleMania, Fastlane!  As per usual these days, the company didn't bother to assemble a full lineup with only days to go, so I'll give you predictions on what I have.  Four of these matches should actually be good, the other two are stupid.

Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus

These two had a pretty brutal No DQ match on RAW a few weeks back, so of course the follow-up is a regular match.  Uhhh, ok.  Anyway, this should be stiff and gritty, and will be Drew's last roadblock on his way to challenging Bobby Lashley for the WWE Title.  

Pick: Drew, obviously

Intercontinental Championship: Big E vs. Apollo Crews

This should also be a solid outing.  Both guys are powerhouses with tremendous agility.  It's nice that Crews is finally doing something after all these years.  I'm picking E to retain though.

Pick: Big E retains

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 2000

And we've arrived at a new millennium!

Arrowhead Pond - 4/2/00

The year 2000 saw the WWF freshen up its product in a major way.  The influx of WCW castoffs and new homegrown stars led to tremendous improvements in the in-ring product, and the absence of Steve Austin for most of the year forced the company to elevate several other uppercard talents.

That year's WrestleMania goes down as probably the strangest of the bunch, as the roster had gotten so large that everyone had to be crammed into multi-man matches and tag bouts.  In fact this edition of 'Mania featured nary a traditional singles match.

The main event saw entirely too much focus put on the McMahon Family squabbles, as each of the McMahons accompanied one of the participants to the ring.  Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley was a pretty good if overly long main event match, but sadly the company's owners took way too much of the spotlight.  This show holds the distinction of being the first 'Mania card to end with a heel Champion.

Say what you want about him now, but in 2000 Triple H was a BAMF.

Three of the WWF's newest stars got their chance to steal the show as Kurt Angle defended the I-C and European Titles against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a 2-Falls Triple Threat.  The match was nothing amazing, but it was a solid showing by three of the company's future main eventers.

Also on the card was a highly entertaining six-person tag match between the Radicalz (Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn), and Too Cool & Chyna. The wrong team won, but it was a fun, fast-paced bout.

The match that stole the show however was the three-way ladder match for the Tag Team Titles - The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz.  The WWF was in the midst of a tag team renaissance, and these three teams rose to the top of the division, in no small part due to their performance here.  This match took what Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had done six years earlier and put the ladder match into overdrive.  The action was violent, explosive, and brutal, and 22 minutes later the TLC match was born.  Edge and Christian won the titles and soon after invented the comedic heel personas that took them to the next level, the Dudley Boyz became synonymous with table spots, and the Hardy Boyz established themselves as fearless daredevils for the rest of their careers.

These six men are obviously psychotic.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XV

1999: Vince Russo leaves a turd in the WrestleMania bowl....

First Union Center - 3/28/99

'Mania 15 holds the distinction, at least according to me, of being the most disappointing WrestleMania in history.  Never before or since has the WWF/E possessed all the tools, talent, and momentum to put on an unforgettable PPV only to completely squander it in almost every possible way.

First the good (there isn't much): The main event of The Rock defending the WWF Title against Steve Austin is a fine match.  Full of crazy brawling and guest referee shenanigans, it captured perfectly the peak of the Vince Russo era, for better or worse.  Rock and Austin would be hard-pressed to have a bad match, so this was just fine (though they would go on to top this match on PPV not once, not twice, but thrice).  It felt more like a good RAW match but given how bad the rest of this PPV is, I'll take it.

This match is the only reason to watch 'Mania 15.

The only other decent matches on this show are Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac, which far exceeded my low expectations (though it really should've been Test in Shane's spot), the Owen/Jarrett vs. Test/D-Lo Tag Title match (which was good but way too short), and the 4-way I-C Title match of the Road Dogg vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Goldust vs. Val Venis.  Now originally Billy Gunn was supposed to be the I-C Champion going in, and Road Dogg was the Hardcore Champ, but Vince Russo decided to swerve everyone and have them switch places, which made no sense and hurt the opening Hardcore Title match.

The other good thing to come out of this show was the Triple H/Chyna double heel turn angle.  During Hunter's match with Kane, heel Chyna turned on the Big Red Monster to reunite with Hunter.  Then during X-Pac's match, they both turned heel on Mr. Waltman, joining the Corporation.  It bordered on convoluted (as did pretty much every angle of the time), but it was a nice double-twist.
The rest of the show consisted of matches that were either too short (Mankind vs. Big Show), forgettable (Sable vs. Tori), or just boring (Undertaker vs. Big Bossman in the worst Hell in a Cell match of all time).

Oscar Film Journal: Sound of Metal (2020)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at!

Today I'll be talking about one of this year's Best Picture nominees (Hey look at that, I'm topical for once!), the intimate, poignant drama Sound of Metal, starring Riz Ahmed as a drummer who loses his hearing and has to essentially start his life over.  Directed by Darius Marder in his feature film debut, Sound of Metal opens on Ruben, the drummer of a metal duo called Blackgammon.  His girlfriend Lou is the band's singer/guitarist, and the pair lives in a mobile home, touring the country from club to club.  Blackgammon seems to be gaining traction, as we see them on the cover of numerous metal magazines and their trailer is full of expensive recording equipment.  But then one day Ruben's hearing suddenly becomes a garbled hum and he can't make out people's words or hear music properly.  After some tests, a doctor informs him he's lost 70-80% of his hearing and it will quickly get worse.  His options are to quit music altogether and try to preserve what's left, or have cochlear implants put in, a surgery that will cost anywhere from $40-80k.  Lou, fearing the former heroin addict Ruben will relapse, convinces him to check into a halfway house for the hearing impaired.  It's here that the bulk of the film takes place, as Ruben learns how to live with his deafness and connects with the other members of his new community.  

Along with its central performances, Sound of Metal is an exercise in restraint.  This material could've easily lent itself to melodramatic After-School Special excess but Marder wisely keeps things understated and internalized.  Riz Ahmed does so much acting with his eyes I think each of them should've earned their own Oscar nod.  His performance is tragic but not in the way you'd expect; Ruben hides behind a wall of metal guy machismo (As a metal musician myself I can relate), working hard to convince everyone around him he's got this, as if to convince himself.  In the film's third act he's faced with an austere, disheartening finality, and again Ahmed conveys most of Ruben's regret non-verbally.  This is sure to be his starmaking performance.  

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XIV

WrestleMania raids my hometown to kick off the Austin Era....

Fleet Center - 3/29/98

It's fitting that 'Mania 14 took place on the anniversary of 'Mania 3.  The 14th edition was to the late 90s WWF as the 3rd was to the late 80s.  In both cases a major star (with serious back problems) seemingly nearing the end of his career passed the torch to the man of the hour, and a major boom period followed.

In the main event, Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title, which kicked off possibly the most successful financial run any single wrestler has ever enjoyed.  The match itself, while not a five-star classic, was a very strong main event, and Shawn's performance is nothing short of a miracle given how badly he was hurting at the time.  This would be his final match for over four years.  On the outside of the ring was celebrity guest Mike Tyson, whose presence sparked a media frenzy which garnered a ton of mainstream hype for the event.  This, my friends, is how you utilize a celebrity guest star in wrestling.

The semi-main event slot went to the Undertaker and his onscreen brother Kane.  The buildup for this match lasted about nine months, from the original announcement that Taker had a brother.  When Kane finally debuted, the company did an excellent job of establishing him as an unstoppable monster, and held off giving away too much physical interaction between him and Taker.  By the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary, and the match didn't disappoint. This was arguably Taker's best 'Mania match to date and was also a career-making match for Kane.

It's like King Kong vs. Godzilla!  OH MY GAHD!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 13

A "lost smile" threw a wrench into the WWF's plans for WrestleMania 13, but they managed to make some lemonade.  Mixed metaphors.....

Rosemont Horizon - 3/23/97 

1997 was the WWF's ratings nadir during the Monday Night War with WCW.  They were right in the middle of an 82-week trouncing, and their PPV buyrates reflected that - 'Mania 13 did an abysmal .72 I believe.

But early '97 was also the very beginning of the Attitude era, before the WWF even fully acknowledged that the business was radically changing.  Snow-white babyface characters were no longer cool to cheer for; instead it was a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, redneck bully named Steve Austin who captured the fans' imagination and became their hero.  The company was about to switch gears in a major way.

The WWF's original plan for WrestleMania 13's centerpiece was a rematch of Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels from the previous year.  Shawn apparently suffered a knee injury just 6 weeks before the big show (which may or may not have faked, to avoid doing the job for Bret) and announced that he'd be taking time off indefinitely, thus relinquishing the WWF Title.  This left the company scrambling for a new main event to build the show around. 

Sucky main event, but this was a nice moment

Two title changes later, and the belt was back around the waist of Sycho Sid, who it was announced would be defending against The Undertaker (marking the first time Taker would challenge for a championship at WrestleMania).  Seemingly Taker and Sid tried to emulate the Taker-Diesel match from 'Mania 12, but unfortunately it failed to live up to that match, and a subpar main event was the result.  This match went too long and, as was often the case, Sid looked lost for much of it.  Taker finally won the WWF Title however, giving the show a feel-good ending.

The other big matchup was the aforementioned Steve Austin vs. an angry, edgier Bret Hart in a no holds barred Submission match, with UFC import Ken Shamrock as the guest referee.  The ensuing battle was nothing short of legendary.  From an action standpoint there have certainly been better matches (including Bret-Austin 1 at Survivor Series '96, IMO), but I can't think of a better example of pure storytelling in a wrestling match (in WWE at least).  Bret went into this match the babyface and left a reviled, vicious heel.  Austin went into the match a nasty bully and emerged as a gallant, tough-as-nails hero.  The visual of Austin being trapped in Bret's Sharpshooter as torrents of blood streamed down his face became one of pro wrestling's iconic images.  Masterful work by both guys.

Is there a more violently iconic image in the history of wrestling?