TJR: WWE WrestleMania 18 Review
WWE WrestleMania XVIII (X8)
March 17, 2002
By John Canton (@johnreport)
The eighteenth WrestleMania was held in Toronto's Skydome for the second time with the first time happening at WrestleMania 6. It also marked the WrestleMania return of Hulk Hogan, who would end up having the most talked about match just like he did twelve years earlier.
The biggest news here was the return of some familiar names like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to name a few. All of them had competed at WrestleManias in the past and with WCW dead they found their way back under the employ of Vince McMahon. The death of WCW also meant the WrestleMania debuts of top guys like Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page while ECW's Rob Van Dam also made his first WM appearance. In many ways the company was changing.
On a personal note, this was the second WrestleMania in Toronto that I didn't go to even though I live two hours away from there. I'm not that sure why. I was 21 at the time, busy with school, work, a girlfriend and I wasn't even writing a lot in 2002 either. It just didn't happen for me. Next time Toronto has a WrestleMania I'll be there. I'm mad at myself for not going to this one, though.
This was also the last WrestleMania under the World Wrestling Federation name. A few months later they officially changed their name to World Wrestling Entertainment. It was also before the brand extension began where half the roster went to Raw and half went to Smackdown. I guess in many ways this show was the end of an era although in other ways it was your typical show too.
To begin the show, the band Saliva sang the song "Superstar" - the theme song of the event. What, no Canadian national anthem?
There was a video with a lot of the performers on the show talking about how big the show was and how much WrestleMania meant to the superstars performing on the show. Very well done video package as usual.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were the announcers on the show. Lawler was back after missing the previous year. He was still in heel mode, which is what he was best at. There was a brief clip of WWF New York, which was their restaurant at the time. Very loud crowd. A theme of the night.
Intercontinental Title: William Regal vs. Rob Van Dam
Regal was the heel IC champ. RVD the babyface challenger, who entered to a huge reaction. It was Regal's second WM opener in a row since he wrestled Chris Jericho in the opener the year before. RVD had fast paced offense early. Regal went for his brass knucks, but RVD kicked them away. Back kick for RVD and then a five star frog splash missed. Regal controlled the match from there. Van Dam got a couple of quick nearfalls. Regal was able to slow it down with a suplex. Nice neckbreaker by Regal for two, who had a busted lip. RVD went for Rolling Thunder, but Regal countered. Nice story early with Regal avoiding two of RVD's key moves. Regal hit a nice butterfly suplex followed by a shot to the face and the Regal wave, which is always fun. Van Dam came back with a dropkick and then a monkey flip. Regal came back with a half nelson suplex that dropped RVD right on the back of his head. Damn. That looked painful. RVD sold it great by rolling out of the ring. Regal rolled him back in and the referee prevented him from using the brass knucks. RVD nailed him with a kick to the face. RVD went up for the Five Star Frog Splash and connected for the win at 6:19 to a big reaction from the crowd.
Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Rob Van Dam
Analysis: **1/2 Solid opener. I had forgotten about this match. RVD was awesome in it. Sometimes he wasn't sharp in the ring because he's a notorious pot smoker, but he was on his game here. Regal was always good. If they got another five minutes it could have been great.
Backstage, Christian talked about facing his former mentor Diamond Dallas Page for the European Title. DDP's gimmick was that he would smile all the time, so after Christian won on Raw he turned on DDP. He also said that after he became a big star he left Toronto to move to Florida. Then he did one of those ridiculous smiles that DDP used to do as part of his "it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing" gimmick.
European Title: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian
"Christian, Christian - at last you're on your own!" I loved that song. DDP was making his WrestleMania in-ring debut, but he was at WrestleMania 6 driving Honky Tonk Man to the ring. Same building too. Crazy. Christian jumped him before the bell, but Page came back with a backbreaker and a clothesline over the top to the floor. Christian countered an attack in the corner by dropping Page's face on the top turnbuckle. Christian knocked him out to the floor. Back in the ring, Christian applied an abdominal stretch. As much as I loved Christian back then he improved as a worker over the next decade. He was very good here, but he became elite about eight years after this. Christian went to the top and Page slammed him off. There's a Greek ref in the crowd, the ref in the ring is Jimmy "The Greek" Korderas and I'm a Greek writing this review. Opa! Page hit a nice powerbomb. Christian went for the Unprettier, Page went for the Diamond Cutter and they each avoided eachother's move. Nice reverse DDT by Christian for two. Nice nearfall there. Christian was mad. His gimmick was to do temper tantrums. Yes it's as stupid as it sounds. They got back up, Page countered an attack and hit the Diamond Cutter (RKO for you kids out there) at 6:10.
Winner: Diamond Dallas Page
Post match, DDP rubbed it in and then congratulated Christian for not losing his temper. He reminded him that there were 67,000 people there that saw it. It's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. Then Christian threw a tantrum.
Analysis: ** A solid match. Nothing too great in it, but nothing bad either. Felt like a TV match.
Backstage, Jonathon Coachman interviewed The Rock calling it the biggest match of his career. Rock was in full babyface mode, doing an incredible job of hyping it up. He said it was a match that would determine the greatest ever. That's an arguable point. Rock made Coach say his prayers. Coach started it with "Whattup G" and Rock stopped him, kicking him out of there. "Hulk Hogan, whatcha gonna do when The Rock runs wild on you." He really did an amazing job of setting up this match. Then as he said "smell what the Rock is cooking" he ripped his shirt Hogan style.
Hardcore Title: Maven vs. Goldust
It was the 24/7 rule for the Hardcore Title. Maven won the first Tough Enough prior to this, so he was making his WrestleMania debut. You may recall when he eliminated Undertaker from the 2002 Royal Rumble. Goldust attacked him right away, tossing him into the security wall and dropped an elbow from the apron into Maven's chest. In the ring, Maven dropkicked a trash can into Goldust. Front suplex by Goldust, who went under the ring to get a golden shovel to match his golden trash can. Crowd was dead for this match. Goldust whipped him into the trash can. All of a sudden Spike Dudley ran in with a ref and he covered for the win. It went 3:15 in length.
Winner: Spike Dudley
Post match, Crash Holly ran out and chased after him. Oh the craziness of the Hardcore Title.
Analysis: DUD I'm not really sure how to rate it. Hardcore Title was a joke belt and there'd be more about it later in the show.
The band Drowning Pool played their song "Tear Away" as the video screens above them told the story of the HHH/Jericho feud.
Backstage, Crash was going after Spike. Al Snow tried to run them over in a cart, but they moved. Spike threw Crash into a garage door. All of a sudden, The Hurricane showed up flying on a rope, kicked Spike and then he pinned him so The Hurricane Shane Helms was the Hardcore Champ.
Kurt Angle walked out for his match. He was still a heel. He still had his hair here. He'd lose it a few months later in a match against Edge. Lots of "WHAT?" chants because of the Austin angle from the year prior. He referenced the Canadian figure skaters that won their gold medals due to a controversial judge saying that he didn't win his gold medal that way. "I am a red, white and blue machine." Kane's pyro hit as Kurt was still talking. Kane was the face here, still with a mask. Both of them would change their looks in the future.
Kurt Angle vs. Kane
There wasn't that much of a story here. It was more about two upper midcard guys having a match because there was nothing else for them to do. Angle attacked Kane with the ring bell before the match started and then the ref rang the bell. German suplex by Angle, who worked on Kane's head. Kane fought back with power moves, including a nice double choke hold. Angle hit an awesome overhead belly to belly followed by a couple of clotheslines. Angle had developed into one of the best workers in the world by this point. It's amazing how good he got in only his third year as a pro wrestler. Back suplex by Angle. The crowd wasn't into the match very much, which was likely due to there not being that much of a story going into it. Angle charged in and Kane knocked him down with a sidewalk slam. Angle countered a suplex into three German suplexes in a row, which was very impressive against a guy that was the size of Kane. Angle went to the top and hit a top rope clothesline, which was a Kane move that drew a reaction from the crowd. He went for it again, but this time Kane countered with a punch to the gut. They got to their feet, slugged it out and Kane ended up hitting a big back body drop. Powerslam by Kane got two. Chokeslam by Kane. Angle was by the rope, so he put his hand on it. Angle put his hands in Kane's face, trying to take the mask off and that led to him giving Kane the Angle Slam. Kane kicked out at two. Even though it was Angle's finisher, people did kick out of the move on a fairly regular basis. Angle put him in the Ankle Lock. Kane got to the ropes after about 45 seconds and then he hit an enziguiri that was very impressive looking. Kane went to the top and then Angle did his awesome top rope belly to belly suplex that I loved so much. Angle Slam didn't work, Chokeslam didn't work and Angle rolled him up with his foot on the ropes. Match went 10:45.
Winner: Kurt Angle
Analysis: *** It was a good match, but not great. The last five minutes were excellent. The first part of it was too slow for my liking. Big respect for Kane showing how athletic he was. Of course it helped to be in the ring with Angle, who was arguably the best in the world at this point. He really put on a show. Kane tried to keep up, but it was a tough opponent for him. I remember being disappointed in the match because I wanted Angle to have a classic match at this event. Kane wasn't the right opponent to have that with.
More Hardcore Title action as The Hurricane was in the locker room with some random women that were some of Godfather's ho's. They were changing in the locker room when they realized Hurricane was behind a partition, so they started screaming. They had no problem with the camera guy though right? I know, not supposed to mention that. Godfather ran in, Hurricane left his with title and off we went to the next match.
They aired the video package of the Undertaker/Flair feud. Undertaker was in his "American Badass" heel days, which was awesome. Flair was a co-owner of the company at this time. Flair got involved in an Undertaker match because he was trying to cheat. Undertaker wanted to have a match with him at WrestleMania. Flair said no. Undertaker beat up Flair's best friend Arn Anderson and his son David Flair. The Board of Directors ended up removing Flair as a co-owner because he was having this match with Undertaker, so Vince McMahon had full control again. Vince made the Undertaker match a No DQ match. I really liked the build to the match. I was such a fan of American Badass/Big Evil Undertaker.
As Undertaker made his entrance to Limp Bizkit's song "Rollin'" JR pointed out that he was 9-0 at WrestleMania. This was Flair's first WrestleMania in 10 years. His last one was WrestleMania, which saw him wrestle Randy Savage in a great match.
No Disqualification Match: The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair
They brawled right from the beginning with Flair being the more aggressive one. The crowd was popping for Flair's offense, which mostly consisted of punches until Undertaker caught him and drove him into the ring post. If you're wondering, Flair was 53 years old here. That's definitely old, but better than pretty much any wrestler at that age. Flair's longevity is unparalleled. Undertaker whipped Flair into the corner and Flair was unable to do his upside down bump into the corner. Undertaker whipped him to the other side, beat him on a little and then did the corner whip again so flair did his upside down bump. Undertaker booted him off the apron, sending him to the floor. Undertaker him with a barrage of punches. Flair came up bleeding, which wasn't a surprise because he bled in a lot of big matches over the years. I'm not sure how many total punches Undertaker threw in the match, but it was a lot. Flair came back with some hard chops to the chest. Undertaker destroyed him with a clothesline in the corner. Undertaker sat him on the top rope, delivered more shots and gave him a superplex off the top rope. That was impressive especially for a near seven footer like Undertaker. He had Flair covered, but then he picked him up after a count of two. Undertaker hit his running legdrop on the side of the apron. I always liked that move. JR called Undertaker "Booger Red" as Lawler asked what it meant. JR said he'd tell him tomorrow. Flair tried a comeback. It didn't work, so Undertaker went for the Old School clothesline. Flair whipped him off the top rope. Undertaker hit a sidewalk slam for two. After Undertaker missed a kick that resulted him being crotched on the top rope, Flair chopped him so hard that he fell to the floor. Flair got a lead pipe off the side of the motorcycle and hit Undertaker in the head, which led to Undertaker to bleed from the head as well. They exchanged offense for a bit. Flair grabbed a "KEEP OFF" sign, hit Undertaker in the head a few times and they rolled back into the ring. Flair hit some punches, Undertaker grabbed him by the throat and Flair countered by kicking him in the nuts! Flair slapped on the Figure Four Leglock, which was his finishing move of course. Undertaker countered with another choke and gave him a chokeslam, which got him a two count. Undertaker was mad at the ref, so he picked him up and rammed him back first into the turnbuckle. Undertaker got the lead pipe. Flair whipped him in the ropes and all of a sudden Arn Anderson showed up with a spinebuster. Best spinebuster in the history of wrestling. Flair covered for two. Undertaker attacked Arn. Arn bladed too, after just two punches to the head. Undertaker choked Arn out and then Flair attacked Undertaker with three shots to the back with the chair. Undertaker came back with a boot to the face. Undertaker went for the Last Ride. For whatever reason, Flair didn't get up for it. He gave him a Tombstone instead. Undertaker covered for the win at 18:47. Undertaker was 10-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: The Undertaker
Post match, Undertaker destroyed ref Charles Robinson with a clothesline. That was awesome. I loved heel Undertaker.
Analysis: ***1/2 I really enjoyed that brawl. It was very old school in a lot of ways with the blood, the moves they did and the intensity of the match. Flair took a beating. Then he showed heart in coming back and nearly winning the match. Undertaker played the role of a bully so damn well. I liked the inclusion of Anderson because to that point Flair was dominated and by having Arn run out it turned the tide a bit. Then Undertaker destroyed him for the finish. That was it, really. This was Undertaker's last time as a heel at WrestleMania.
Backstage, Michael Cole interviewed Booker T. Booker was a heel who was doing a dumb guy gimmick.
Edge vs. Booker T.
The infamous "Japanese shampoo commercial" feud. Booker was the heel. Edge was the babyface that was getting a push. He was also in his hometown of Toronto where he was in attendance at WrestleMania 6. I wish they had an Edge vs. Christian match here even though they feuded in late 2001. Seeing them have a classic in Toronto would have been great. JR: "To think this thing started over a shampoo commercial." Yes JR, we know it was a lame story too. Edge hit a dropkick and neckbreaker early. Booker powered back by dropping him neck first on the top rope followed a side kick and then a clothesline that knocked Edge over the top to the floor. Back in the ring, Booker hit a missile dropkick. The crowd wasn't into it that much although they were building it up to it with Booker in control so much. Edge tried a comeback, but Booker came back with an Alabama Slam. They went to the top where Edge hit a hurricanrana that was pretty sloppy. That's probably why he didn't do that move much. Edge continued the face comeback with a spinning heel kick and a clothesline. Edge avoided the axe kick and connected with a spinning kick off the top for two. Booker got a surprise rollup out of the corner for two. Edge gave him a slingshot and Booker avoided a charge. He hit a side kick. Spinarooni time. It was by far the biggest pop of the match to this point. Axe kick by Booker got two. Edge took him down with a hip toss and then hit the Spear for the count of two. Nice nearfall at that moment. It wasn't yet his finishing move. Edge did his own version of the Spinarooni that was pretty awful. After a nice exchange, Edge hit the Edgecution DDT for the win at 6:32.
Analysis: *3/4 An okay match. The last two minutes were well done. Everything before that was very average in terms of building up the spots. Crowd didn't care until Booker did the Spinarooni, which is disappointing since he was the heel. This was the third match on the show so far that got between 6-7 minutes. I guess you could say they wanted to give them enough time to have a decent match, but not enough time to have a classic match. You can only do so much in that amount of time. Edge went on to feud with Kurt Angle after this, which was a very good feud for him at that point in his career.
In the backstage area, Coachman caught up to The Hurricane. "Mighty" Molly Holly ran up to Hurricane. She was his sidekick. She hit him in the head with a frying pan and covered him to win the title. Molly was the new Hardcore Champion. Oh the comedy.
There was the video package showing the debut of the New World Order, who were there to "inject poison" into WWE as Vince put it. They cost Steve Austin his chance to win back the World Title. Austin was back to being a babyface after turning towards the end of 2001. The "WHAT?" phase had begun too. Hall challenged him to a match at WrestleMania because he wanted Austin to prove to him that he was the toughest SOB (son of a bitch) in the company.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall w/Kevin Nash
Austin got a big pop. Not as big as the year earlier, though. It was weird seeing him in a match so early in the show. Hall came out to the NWO theme song with Kevin Nash at his side. Austin attacked right away. Austin hit a Thesz Press and then he rammed Hall's head into the corner ten times as the crowd chanted "What?" during all of it. Out on the floor, Austin attacked Nash in the back and rammed Hall head first into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Hall hit a clothesline. He gave Austin a hard whip into the turnbuckle and then kicked him out of the ring, sending him to the floor. Nash attacked on the floor while Hall hit some clotheslines followed by his patented fallaway slam. Nash got in another cheapshot behind the ref's back. After getting beat up for a few minutes, Austin hit a spinebuster. Hall was really great at throwing punches. He threw a lot of them here. Hall went to the ropes, attempted a clothesline and Austin ended up hitting a Stone Cold Stunner. The ref went to count. Nash pulled him out of the ring and knocked him out with a punch. Nash went into the ring where he attacked Austin with punches. Hall got a chair, Austin hit a low blow on Nash, hit a Stunner on Hall and then hit another stunner on Hall. Austin covered. No ref. Ref Jack Doan slid into the ring to count, so Nash gave him an elbow to the back. Austin gave Nash a clothesline to send him out of the ring. Then a back body drop to Hall as he was attempting a Razor's Edge, which sent him out of the ring. The crowd was loud for everything after Nash's interference. A bunch of referees ran out to kick Nash out of the ringside area. Hall tried to run away, Austin threw him into the ring, went for a Stunner and he couldn't get it. Hall hit a Stunner on Austin. Original ref Tim White recovered to make the count for two. Austin hit a Stunner on Hall, who was still vertical from it and then Austin hit his fourth Stone Cold Stunner on Hall that led to the pinfall win at 9:51. The crowd was very loud for the finish.
Winner: Steve Austin
Analysis: **1/4 The match was just okay. Like I said, the crowd really woke up after Nash first interfered and were loud for everything after that. Hall was a decent worker at this point in his career, but had fallen off from where he was earlier in his career. Austin's injuries were also starting to mount up. I doubt he was thrilled about being in the midcard after being the top guy for all of 2001 when he had one of his best years ever. Austin would have a falling out with WWE a few months after this, which led to his leaving the company for a while and also getting arrested for hitting his wife at the time, Debra. He didn't serve prison time. He'd be back for WrestleMania 19, which was his last match…at least for now. I always wish Austin had a more high profile match here. The rest of Hall's WWE career wasn't very memorable after this, nor did it last very long. Nash would continue on for another year and even got a World Title feud with his buddy Triple H in 2003.
They showed clips of WWF Axxess, which is the annual fan interaction event that still goes on to this day. I've been tp it before. I'll likely go again. It's a fun time. I always found it funny that Hogan was there to "destroy" WWE yet here he was meeting fans. The debut of the NWO in WWE could have been handled much better.
Four Corners Elimination Match for the Tag Team Titles: Billy & Chuck vs. Dudley Boyz w/Stacy Keibler vs. Hardy Boyz vs. APA (Bradshaw & Faarooq)
The tag division was hurting a bit here. B&C were the heel champs. The rules were that two guys wrestled, everybody else was on the outside and if you got pinned your team was eliminated. I always thought that Keibler being with the Dudleys was an odd mix, but they tried to add her sex appeal to prevent them from being stale. Crowd was dead early. Lots of APA vs. B&C stuff until D-Von finally got a tag in. Faarooq hit a spinebuster to Bubba and then he hit a spinebuster on Chuck on the outside. Bradshaw hit a Clothesline from Hell by Bradshaw on Billy. He wasn't legal though. The Dudleys hit the 3D on Bradshaw, so the APA was eliminated. The Hardys finally got involved and hit some double team offense on Billy. On the floor, the Dudleys set up a table even though it was technically illegal in this match. In the ring, Jeff hit the Whisper in the Wind on Bubba. Stacy jumped on the apron and showed her ass to Jeff. George Clooney is marking out bro! He kissed her on the lips, and then sent her on her way. Bubba had Jeff on his shoulders, so Billy hit a clothesline off the top. The Dudleys worked on Jeff with Bubba hitting a back body drop. Chinlock by Bubba. The first seven minutes of the match were really boring. Big clothesline by D-Von on Jeff. The Dudleys continued to isolate on Jeff. Jeff countered a neckbreaker on D-Von as both guys were out in the ring. Jeff tagged in Matt for the hot tag and he took shots on the four other guys. Bubba hit a back suplex and then missed a corner splash. Leg drop by Matt onto Bubba got two. D-Von went up for the Whassup Drop, but Billy shoved him off and D-Von went crashing through the table. Ref Nick Patrick was tied up by Chuck and he's apparently too deaf to hear a man crashing through a table. Crowd popped big for the table bump because it was such a boring match. Matt hit the Twist of Fate on a distracted Bubba. Jeff hit the Swanton Bomb and Matt covered to eliminate the Dudley Boyz. Jeff hit the Poetry in Motion corner attack on each guy. Matt hit the Twist of Fate on Chuck and then Jeff hit the Swanton Bomb. The ref told Matt to leave the ring so Billy hit the Fameasser on Jeff. Matt clotheslined Billy out. Chuck covered. Jeff kicked out at two. Very good nearfall there. Billy ran into the ring and hit Jeff with a belt shot to the head because Chuck was distracting the ref. Chuck covered for the win at 13:50.
Winners: Billy & Chuck
Analysis: *1/4 Boring match, especially compared to the ladder matches from the previous two WrestleManias. It ran too long too. Could have shaved off 4 or 5 minutes for it to be a better match. The highlights of the match were the camera shots of Keibler's ass. God bless 'em for doing that. The point of the match was to put B&C over established tag teams as a way of elevating them. The tag division wasn't that great, though. After the brand extension things got even worse at least on the Raw side. The 2002 match of the year for me was the Angle/Benoit vs. Edge/Rey tag title match on the Smackdown brand at the No Mercy PPV. Seek it out if you want some great tag team wrestling. My last thought here is that I almost forgot how awful the Billy & Chuck "you look so good to me" song was.
Backstage, Scott Hall & Kevin Nash were upset about the loss to Austin. They wanted to take out their anger on The Rock. Hulk walked up to them saying that he wants to go out there to prove that he could go out there on his own. The crowd popped big as soon as they saw Hogan on screen. That was a sign of things to come.
Meanwhile the Hardcore Title skits continued with Molly running backstage and then she ran into a door. Christian slammed the door on her. He covered her to win the Hardcore Title.
A video package started up highlighting the Hogan/Rock feud. Hulk did a promo about how he was the biggest star in wrestling in the past and in the present. Rock showed up to ask Hulk how he felt about headlining one more WrestleMania with The Rock. Hulk said yes. Rock hit the Rock Bottom, brother. Hulk beat him in a tag, took a hammer to the back of Rock's head and ran him over in an ambulance. The ambulance thing was such a stupid angle. Rock came back from it way too soon. That's probably why they didn't make a big deal out of it in the video package.
Hulk Hogan made his entrance to the NWO theme song. Even though he was a heel, you could tell the crowd was cheering him just because it was a big deal for him to make his WrestleMania return after nine years. I think as soon as the fans were chanting "Hogan" in the ring, WWE probably realized that this match should have went on last. The Rock entered. He got an enormous babyface pop too. The Rock was in the main event during the previous three WrestleManias. He dropped down the card a bit here.
The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan
They had a classic staredown. First they looked at eachother. Then they looked at the crowd. They locked up and Hogan shoved Rock down. The crowd cheered loudly. What a reaction. It was only the beginning. Hulk knocked him down with a shoulderblock followed by another thunderous ovation. Hulk hit a clothesline. Rock came back with an explosive leaping clothesline, which knocked off Hogan's bandana. Rock hit his punch combo ending with the spit punch that knocked Hulk to the floor. I think Hulk wanted to bump over the top to the floor, but he couldn't do it so he went under the bottom rope. Back in the ring, Rock hit a clothesline and Hulk countered a Rock Bottom with an elbow to the head. Hulk hit him with some more elbow drops followed by a foot rake to the face. Clothesline in the corner by Hogan. Rock took down Hogan and hit him with punches to the head. Hogan came back with a back suplex to a huge reaction. Abdominal stretch by Hogan. After an exchange, Rock hit a back elbow and Hulk came back with a chokeslam like maneuver that he didn't use very often. Hulk choked him with his wrist tape. Rock came back with punches, then he charged in and Hulk threw him over the top to the floor. That was a nice counter by Hogan. They brawled on the floor a bit with Hogan in control as he cleared the announce table. Rock came back with a flurry of punches. Ref took away a chair and Hogan knocked Rock back down with a clothesline. They went back in the ring, Rock charged with a clothesline and Hogan sidestepped him so Rock took the ref out.
Rock hit a spinebuster. I remember watching this live thinking that Chioda might stay down for 11 minutes like he did the year earlier during the Undertaker/Triple H match. Rock put Hogan in the Sharpshooter. Hulk fought out of it, getting to the ropes. Rock didn't let go. He pulled him back to the center. Hogan tapped out. Ref didn't tap out. Hogan hit a low blow as some fans chanted "Rocky Sucks" because of how much they liked Rock. Hogan hit a Rock Bottom. Ref woke up and counted one…two…Rock got the shoulder up. Hogan took off his belt and hit Rock in the back with it a number of times. Rock hit a DDT. Ref was still not to his feet, so Rock hit Hogan with the belt about six times. Would that count as a DQ? I'm not even sure. Rock Bottom. Rock covered. Ref counted the pin, but Hulk kicked out at two. He's HULKING UP! The crowd went wild! Wow! What an ovation! Hogan waved the finger in the face, hit the punches and the dreaded big boot. Leg Drop by Hogan for one…two…no! Huge reaction for that nearfall. JR: "My God The Rock kicked out!" Rock hit another big boot. Leg Drop missed this time. Rock Bottom. No cover. Another Rock Bottom. Kip up. People's Elbow to a thunderous ovation. It connected. One…two…three. Rock wins at 16:23.
Winner: The Rock
Analysis: **** It's hard to rate it as a match, but I'm going four stars out of five. In terms of reaction and emotion it was as good as pro wrestling gets, really. I guess if you watched it on mute you'd have a different feeling regarding the match. That's not realistic, though. The crowd played such a big part in the match. In terms of crowd reaction, emotion and drama it's one of the better matches you will ever see. The plan for the match was to have Hogan turn face by the end of it. It worked even before the attack of Nash & Hall. I think if they could do it again they would put this match on last. It would have ended the show on a great note. It was also tough for anything to follow this match. I have a huge amount of respect for Hogan in this match because he had a cracked rib and was grabbing it at the end of it because it was hurting so much. Despite being 49 years old at the time of the match, he worked hard and won the crowd over with his performance. Rock was tremendous too. He had become such a good big match performer at this point in his career.
After the match, Hogan extended his hand. Rock shook it. Rock's music played as Hogan told him to pose for the fans. Rock left. Hall & Nash came out. Hall threw a toothpick in Hogan's face and then Nash hit him with a sucker punch. They double teamed Hogan. Rock came back. He clotheslined Nash out of the ring and Hogan threw Hall out of the ring. Hall & Nash retreated. They played Rock's music again. I would have loved it if they played Hogan's "Real American" music there. Hogan was going to leave Rock told him to stay to do his poses. Hogan did his ear cupping and his other poses. Rock encouraged more poses. This is where his music should have played, but the response was still huge. Ross and Lawler did a great job of putting this over as an iconic moment.
They showed a clip of Big Show at WWF New York meeting fans. Cody Rhodes showed a clip of this on TV recently.
The announced attendance was 68,237, which was the new record for Skydome.
Women's Title: Jazz vs. Trish Stratus vs. Lita
Jazz was the heel champ. Trish & Lita were both faces. Trish had a Canadian flag on the ass of her shorts. Best flag ever. I've never been more proud. Triple threat rules so they were all in the ring at the same time. Jazz overpowered both of them early. Nice double arm suplex by Jazz on Lita. She kicked Trish out of the ring. Lita hit a headscissors on Jazz followed by a suplex for two. Trish snuck back in to get a rollup on Jazz and then Lita hit a crossbody. Trish rolled through for two. Trish hit a kick on Lita and then a bulldog for two. Jazz splashed Lita for two. Crowd was dead for a lot of it. They were tired from the previous match. Fisherman's suplex by Jazz got two. Reverse DDT for Trish got two. She faced off with Lita. Lita hit a back drop on Trish that was very sloppy. Lita was sloppy sometimes. Lita hit the Twist of Fate on Jazz and then a body slam on Trish. Moonsault missed. Trish rolled her up for two. Trish and Lita collided head first, so all three women were down. Backslide by Trish. Lita hit a back drop over the top to the floor. Trish went for a bulldog and Lita threw her into the turnbuckle, so Trish's legs went crashing into the corner. That looked painful. She knocked Lita off the top rope. Jazz knocked Trish off the apron. Jazz hit a top rope Fisherman's Suplex on Lita for the win at 6:16. Not much of a reaction for the finish.
Analysis: * Just an okay match. I like all three women, especially Trish, but it was tough for them to follow Rock/Hogan. The crowd wasn't into it even with Trish being a Torontonian. Trish and Lita would become better workers over the years too. They were still early in their careers here. I'm still surprised Trish didn't win in her hometown. Obviously she was the focus of the women's division for the next four years, though.
Christian was shown leaving the building with the Hardcore Title. He put his bag in the back of the car. Maven attacked him from behind, rolled him up and covered for the win. Then he left with the title while in Christian's taxi. Christian threw another tantrum. That was the end of the Hardcore Title saga on this night.
The World Title match was next. Jericho was the heel champ. Stephanie was his manager even though they hated eachother the year prior to this. Jericho wasn't booked strong once the feud with Hunter started. There was even a point where Jericho had to take care of Stephanie's dog. A lot of people joked that the match was really Hunter vs. Stephanie, who were going through an on screen divorce at around this point. They were dating in real life by this point too and they got married in the fall of 2003. Drowning Pool sang a song for Triple H's entrance. The problem with that was you couldn't hear the crowd during the entrance. Hunter was returning from his torn left quad injury. He looked as big as ever here and also very tanned. Jericho entered with the WWF Title and the WCW Title, which he carried around since he won it at the end of 2001. He was with Stephanie, who looked as chesty as ever here. That's my way of saying she got a boob job in 2001. I'm classy like that.
WWF Undisputed World Heavyweight Title Match: Chris Jericho w/Stephanie McMahon vs. Triple H
Hunter had his left leg taped up. He hit his running high knee early and then sold the idea that his left leg was hurting. Jericho dumped him over the top to the floor. Jericho went up top, Hunter got onto the apron and threw Jericho into the security wall. Suplex on the floor. Hunter cleared off the Spanish Announce Table. Ref Earl Hebner began a very slow count in the ring. Jericho kicked Hunter in the back of the leg. The crowd wasn't making a lot of noise. Hunter tackled Jericho and then hit him with a barrage of punches. Hunter went after Jericho's leg. Nice kneebreaker by Hunter leading to a Figure Four Leg Lock by the ropes. Stephanie put her fingers in Hunter's eyes. I bet she's done worse over the years. Hunter grabbed her by the hair. Jericho charged in, Hunter moved and Jericho ended up knocking Stephanie off the apron. Hunter rolled Stephanie in the ring. He went for the Pedigree. Jericho hit a missile dropkick. At least the crowd popped for the Hunter/Stephanie stuff. Jericho worked on the knee. The crowd didn't seem to care for the match that much. Jericho gave him a figure four around the ring post, which is one of my favorite Bret Hart moves ever. No reaction. When Jericho said "C'mon Baby" the crowd reacted a bit for that. After Jericho continued to work on the knee, Hunter kicked Jericho into the corner. Hunter came back with a neckbreaker and a facebuster into the knee. Hunter botched a spinebuster because it looked like Jericho slipped out of his hands. Then Hunter hit a good spinebuster. Jericho whipped Hunter into the corner and sent him flying over the top rope as Hunter did his usual bump over the top.
Jericho cleared the English announce table. Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho on the table, which is what happened in May 2001 when Hunter tore his quad during that great tag match. Hunter went for a Pedigree. Jericho gave him a backdrop and Hunter went crashing through the Spanish Announce Table. See that English table? You can never outshine the Spanish table. Jericho rolled him back in and hit a Lionsault for two. JR was freaking out that Hunter kicked out. The crowd didn't care. Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho. Hunter kicked out of it. Pedigree for Hunter, but Jericho hit him in the knee. I liked that counter a lot. Jericho put him in the Walls of Jericho although it was very Boston Crab like in this instance. Jericho sat down in it. Hunter was in the hold for about a minute while Jericho was yelling: "ASK HIM!" Hunter made it to the ropes to break the hold. Jericho got a chair, Stephanie distracted the ref Earl Hebner and Hunter gave Jericho a DDT on the chair. That got two. Barely a reaction again. Stephanie went into the ring. Hebner took the chair. She shoved Earl. Hunter grabbed her by the hair and put her between her legs. Not in that way, you freaks. In the Pedigree way. He hit the Pedigree on Stephanie. That drew the biggest pop of the match. Hebner rolled her out of the ring. Hunter turned around and Jericho hit Hunter in the head for two. This ref can't hear either. Jericho went for a Pedigree, Hunter gave him a slingshot into the corner. Jericho jumped towards Hunter, who gave him the Pedigree for the win at 18:41.
Winner and New Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion: Triple H
Analysis: ***1/4 Even though it's a match that I rate over three stars, which is above average, it has to be considered a letdown. It was obvious that the crowd cared more about Rock/Hogan, so that should have been the last much. I'm not taking anything away from Jericho or Hunter, though. They worked hard. It was a tough act to follow. The story was that Hunter showed a lot of babyface by withstanding the attack of Jericho, the interference of Stephanie and overcoming his knee injury. If you want to see the best Hunter/Jericho match I'd recommend Fully Loaded 2000. It was one of the best Last Man Standing matches you will ever see.
Post match, JR did a great job of trying to put over how tough Triple H was by displaying so much heart on his way to victory. JR tried telling us that there were a lot of great moments on the show, but nothing on the show could top the win of Triple H. Nice try, but that wasn't true. JR was great at emphasizing key points at the end of the show, though.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- Vince was so happy with the Hogan reaction that he put the title on him a month later, which cut the legs out of Triple H's babyface run. It was a nice nostalgia move, but long term was probably a bad move. Hogan's reign was very short as he lost it to Undertaker, who absolutely deserved it because of how awesome he was as the American Badass. Hunter's face turn lasted until the summer when he turned heel leading to the in-ring return of Shawn Michaels.
- The biggest question that always comes out of this show is why didn't they do Austin vs. Hogan? Not sure. There was likely friction there. I don't really know. I think they just picked Rock because they figured he had the brighter future and wanted to "pass the torch" to him. As much as I love Austin, Rock was the right opponent for Hogan here. You could tell Austin was physically wearing down. Rock was able to work at a fast pace and did an awesome job of making Hogan look good.
- If you're counting, that was the fourth straight WrestleMania with a McMahon getting involved in the main event. It's amazing that we went the first 15 WrestleManias without a McMahon involved. That's my way of saying they were too involved at this show as well as WrestleMania 16. I was okay with it at 15 and especially 17, which as I've said many times is the best PPV ever. This main event was more about Hunter vs. Stephanie when it should have been about Jericho, who was the Undisputed Champion.
- The return of the NWO was poorly handled. I'm not sure what the long term plan was for it or if there was even a long term plan, but it could have been a lot better. It also would have been nice if they brought in Eric Bischoff with them. They ended up bringing him in later in the year. It would have been more impactful to see him here.
- The Toronto crowd was great for most of the show. I would have loved to been at this one. I'm not even a huge Hogan fan, but everybody that I know that's been to that show say it was something they will never forget. I'll put Toronto fans up against anybody in the world as the best wrestling fans there are. Obviously New York and Chicago fans come to mind as well. I'm not here to argue that. Just saying that I'm proud of how loud the Toronto crowd generally is…as long as WWE puts the matches in the right order!
Best Match: The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan - Not great from a technical standpoint. However, it was great in terms of being a memorable, iconic wrestling match with moments we will never forget.
Worst Match: Maven vs. Goldust - Nothing else was that bad, really.
Most Memorable Moment: Hulk Hogan shaking The Rock's hand after the match - That was the "passing of the torch" moment.
1. The Rock - He showed how good he truly was. It was tough to pick a winner for the top spot
2. Hulk Hogan - He's not my favorite, but I give him credit. Did way better than I expected.
3. The Undertaker - I was a huge mark for him in the "Big Evil" days.
4. Ric Flair - You could see how happy he was to be there. Put on a great show.
5. Kurt Angle - He should have been in a bigger match, really. Was the best in the world at this time.
Show rating (out of 10): 6.5
A good show that lacked the kind of high quality matches that would have made it great. The Rock/Hogan match was one of the most memorable matches in wrestling history, though, so that's what people will always remember when they think of WrestleMania 18.
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
3. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
4. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
5. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
6. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
7. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
8. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
9. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
10. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
11. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
12. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WM18: ****
13. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****
Visit the WrestleMania Review Archive.
John Canton firstname.lastname@example.org