The Three Count

T3C: The History of WrestleMania

When it’s time for Wrestlemania, everything else fades into insignificance. We need escapism in this world, we need great entertainment and to watch great athletes. Wrestlemania is all that and more. In a Three Count special, it’s time to look back over the history of the event that changed wrestling forever…

Wrestlemania XI wasn’t a classic, that’s for sure and the WWF were starting to have problems thanks to Ted Turner pumping his cash into WCW. By the time Wrestlemania XII came round, Ramon was on his way and Diesel had his last match losing to the Undertaker. Bret Hart was champ again and finally he was to meet Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania in a sixty minute Iron-Man Match.

The big build-up was based around Michael’s quest for the WWF Title, Vince loves that kind of storyline, he’s doing it now with Chris Benoit It was a different kind of event this time around. There were no celebs and on the eve of Wrestlemania the WWF held the Slammy’s.

There were only eight matches on the card, dominated by the Hart v Michaels match. But there were some notable debuts, Austin beat Vega and Hunter Hearst Helmsley wrestled his first match at Wrestlemania. He lost in under two minutes to the Ultimate Warrior (yep he’s back again, Vince never learnt) though he did get a feud set up with Marc Mero. Piper beat Goldust in a rambling Hollywood Back Lot Brawl complete with Goldust in sexy women’s undies (Dusty must have been so proud), Yokozuna was a face stuck in a terrible tag match that included Ahmed Johnson and Jake Roberts A Free for All match saw the Huckster draw with the Nacho Man as the WCW insults went into overdrive.

The sixty minute Iron Man Match wasn’t a classic, it ended 0-0 after sixty minutes, Hart thought he’d kept his belt but overtime was added and Michaels finally won the title and Bret learnt what it was like to be screwed by Vince. A good ending to a pretty crap Wrestlemania.

If that was bad, then Wrestlemania XIII was definitely an unlucky one. Michaels feuded with Sid, lost it, got it back then got injured. Bret Hart won a four way match to win the title again but then lost it to Sid. Unbelievably the main event was to be Sid defending against The Undertaker.

Just seven matches this time around but one was a classic that changed the WWF. Bret Hart beat Stone Cold Steve Austin in a submission match when the bloodied Austin passed out. Blood at Wrestlemania? Austin getting cheered? Hart getting booed? What was happening?

The biggest debut on the card was that of Rocky Mavia who retained his IC title against The Sultan (Rikishi without the weight or that ass). He wasn’t quite getting the cheers those days. Owen and Davey Boy kept their tag belts against Vader and Mankind, Triple H beat Goldust, this wasn’t a good card. Finally The Undertaker won the WWF Title against Sid in one of the most disappointing Wrestlemania’s ever held.

The title kept changing hands. Undertaker lost to the now heel Bret Hart but we were just months away from the Montreal screw job that saw Michaels back as champ, Hart out of the WWF and into WCW and Vince with spit on his face. But the hatred fans had for Vince was a turning point. Wrestlemania XIV was headlined by Shawn Michaels defending his title against Stone Cold Steve Austin with Mike Tyson as the special enforcer. Vince would do anything to stop Austin winning the title but that wasn’t to be, Austin won the belt, Michaels was out injured for years and Tyson put the ex-champ on the floor.

It was an eight match card and pretty impressive too. The Undertaker finally met Kane, now managed by Paul Bearer, you can guess the result! Triple H beat Owen Hart for the European Title, The Rock defended his title against Ken Shamrock and Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) won the tag titles. LOD 2000 with Sunny won a Battle Royal. There was even a light-heavyweight title match with Taka Michinoku beating Aguila. Pete Rose made his Wrestlemania debut getting tombstoned by Kane.

It was time for the Austin v Mr McMahon feud to begin in earnest and it wasn’t long before Austin stunned his boss. Triple H took over as the head of D Generation X and the battle against WCW was being won as The Rock came into his own as Vince tried everything to get the belt off Austin.

I used to be able to name all the WWF Title changes off by heart but that stops now. The title changed seven times before Wrestlemania XV. Austin lost to Kane, then got it back, then got pinned by both Undi and Kane. The title was vacated, Rock won it at Survivor Series with Vince screwing Mankind. He got the belt, then lost it to Rock at the Rumble in that famous I Quit match, then got it back again during the half time break at Superbowl before losing it to the Rock again. Still with me? Austin was Number One challenger despite Mr McMahon winning the Rumble so the scene was set for a classic Rock v Austin match at Wrestlemania XV.

There were ten matches at Wrestlemania XV but some right disasters. Bart Gunn saw his career wrecked losing a Brawl for All to Butterbean. The evil Undertaker beat Boss Man in the only ever Hell in a Cell match at Wrestlemania, then his Ministry hanged poor old Boss Man. Elsewhere it was heel turns galore as Chyna turned on Kane then Chyna (she was a bitch that night) and Triple H turned on X-Pac to join the Corporation. Pete Rose was dressed as a chicken and got beat up quite a lot. Mankind beat Big Show but couldn’t be the ref for the title match so Vince took over only to be told by President Michaels that wasn’t on. In came Hebner but eventually Mankind was ref and Austin got the title back.

Titles kept changing time after time in the year leading up to Wrestlemania 2000, Eight changes before the big event with everyone from Undi to Big Show to Mr McMahon himself holding the belt. But now we were in the Triple H era, he’d been champ for a while and had retired Mick Foley but it was also time for the McMahon family soap opera to begin. The main event at Wrestlemania 2000 would see a McMahon in every corner. Steph with Triple H, Linda got Mick Foley back after another short retirement, Shane had Big Show (can’t win them all) and The Rock was supported by Mr McMahon.

Elsewhere the card used up as many wrestlers as it could, a bit like this year really. Angle defended his Euro-Continental Titles against Benoit and Jericho losing both without being pinned. It was Edge and Christian winning the Triple Ladder match for the tag titles against the Dudleys and the Hardys. 13 men fought over the Hardcore Title and even Moolah was back getting involved in the cat fight between Terri and Kat.

There were no celebs, Vince said “our guys are the celebs now.” The Four Corners Match ended in yet another screw job. Mr McMahon turned on The Rock leaving Triple H as the first heel to enter and leave Wrestlemania as WWF Champion, At least we got to see screeching Steph get the People’s Elbow from The Rock.

Again the title changed hands plenty of time throughout 2000 and early 2001, Angle getting a taste of glory but as we reached Wrestlemania XVII The Rock was champion and Royal Rumble winner Austin was again his opponent and with the event being held in Texas, surely Austin would again get the title.

It was an eleven match card with six title matches. Mr McMahon has his first Wrestlemania match, a great streetfight with Shane McMahon. Mick Foley was back as ref, Linda sedated in a wheelchair and Trish again having an affair with one of the staff, this time Mr McMahon himself. It was a classic match.

Elsewhere, Jericho retained his IC Title against Willian Regal, Kane won the Hardcore Title, Eddie Guerrero won Test’s European Title, Chyna won the Women’s title from the RTC Ivory but all were short matches. The main focus was put on the McMahon family feud, Angle beating Benoit in their usual classic, Undi beating Triple H in what I believe to be his best Wrestlemania match, the brilliant TLC match between Edge/Christian, the Dudleys and the Hardys and of course the shocking title match.

It looked like being a bad night for Vince, he’d been beaten up by his son, been kicked in the balls by his wife and now he had the possibility of Austin getting the title back. But shocks were on their way, Austin turned heel, not just that he joined forces with Mr McMahon! Austin won the title, the swine!

Wrestlemania XVIII was built around one man, Triple H. He’d had a terrible injury and wasn’t around when Chris Jericho beat Rock and Austin in one night to become the first Undisputed Champion. But weeks before the Royal Rumble he was back, of course he won the Rumble and his feud with Jericho was set. But he also had marriage problems and after Steph faked a pregnancy he was back as a single man facing Jericho who come Wrestlemania had Steph by his side (and after all the things he’d said about her!).

By now WWF was history and WWE was born. There was also a huge amount of stars who’d never appeared at Wrestlemania having arrived from ECW and WCW. The NOW were also back in town and that meant one thing. Hogan was back at Wrestlemania for the first time since Wrestlemania IX. He was due to meet The Rock in a battle of the icons but this was his first Wrestlemania as a heel. More on that shortly.

Elsewhere, Ric Flair returned after ten years but lost to The Undertaker, Scott Hall lost a terrible match to Steve Austin that encouraged the latter to leave the company. RVD won the IC Title from Regal, DDP beat Christian in a European Title defence, The Hardcore title began with Maven, but the 24-7 rule meant changes throughout the show with Spike Dudley, The Hurricane, Mighty Molly and Christian winning the belt before Maven got it back again and left in a limo. Billy and Chuck kept their tag belts in a fourway disaster. Angle beat Kane, Edge beat Booker T and Jazz retained her women’s title against Trish and Lita, but they had a terrible time, why?

They had to follow the amazing Rock v Hogan match, the crowd response was amazing, the fans virtually refused to boo Hogan and despite Rock winning, this was the night the New World Order died. Hogan was attacked by Hall and Nash but he was back as a fan favourite at the event he helped make the success that it is.

Main event time and Triple H getting his first Undisputed title in a disappointing match with Jericho. Wrestlemania XVIII belonged to Rock and Hogan.

As the year progressed WWE changed beyond recognition. The Brand extension took place and now we had two rosters on Raw and Smackdown. The Raw title became the World Heavyweight Title, dominated by Triple H while the Smackdown Title was in the hands of Lesnar, Big Show and then Kurt Angle.

Wrestlemania XIX also saw Hogan back and up against Mr McMahon, the WWE owner bled like the crazy man he is and it was a surprisingly good match which of course Hogan won.

Elsewhere, on a card with just nine matches, Matt Hardy kept his Cruiserweight title in just 5 minutes against Rey Mysterio, Undi kept his unbeaten record in a terrible handicap match against Big Show and A-Train (Undi’s partner the woeful Nathan Jones turned up right at the end), Trish won the Women’s title, Team Angle retained the WWE Tag Titles (for some reason the World Tag Title match ended up on Heat). The first five matches on the card only lasted half an hour. All the effort was put into Michael’s in-ring return to Wrestlemania against Jericho, the Hogan match and yet another Austin v Rock match, with Rock finally getting a win over Austin in what has been Austin’s last proper match in WWE. Main events were Booker T losing a title match to Triple H and a classic between Angle and Lesnar. Angle was one match away from a serious neck operation and Lesnar nearly joined him after a missed shooting star press. Lesnar won the title.

It was a great show, okay a few dodgy matches but with the roster he has Vince really should be putting on great shows all the time. But wrestling comes down to more than talented wrestlers. Behind the success of Wrestlemania is Vince McMahon, his team of writers and his booking skills.

In 2004 it was Wrestlemania 20 and the kitchen sink was thrown at the most hyped event for years. We saw a new World Heavyweight Champion as finally Chris Benoit won the big one defeating Champ Triple H and Shawn Michaels in an awesome triple threat match. Over on Smackdown, Kurt Angle lost another title match at Wrestlemania as he was beaten by Eddie Guerrero. The Rock and Mick Foley returned for a one-off Rock and Sock Connection reunion only to lose to the Evolution team of Orton, Flair and Batista. The supposedly big match of the night was Lesnar v Goldberg with Austin as ref. But the news that Lesnar was leaving for a career in the NFL that never materialized, and Goldberg was going as well made this a match the fans booed throughout and cheered Austin more than anyone else. Both tag titles were retained in meaningless matches with most the teams splitting within weeks, in fact the only teams now competing are La Resistance (without Dupree) and the Bashams. John Cena beat the Big Show for the US Title and poor Molly got her head shaved after losing the women’s title match with Victoria. Chavo won the ridiculously short cruiserweight open to keep the belt, Ultimo Dragon fell over as he entered Madison Square Garden. The big event of the night was the re-appearance of the deadman as the Undertaker came back to his original gimmick (well nearly) with Paul Bearer as he beat Kane. Christian beat Chris Jericho as Trish turned on Y2J and Torrie and Sable beat Stacy and Miss Jackie in a terrible lingerie match.