April 2, 2011
This was a big show for me, despite not officially being on the PPV event. Mania X8 was from SkyDome in Toronto and was my first chance as a wrestler to be a part of WrestleMania. I didn’t much expect to get on the card considering the size of the, post Invasion roster, so I wasn’t too surprised when I did not. I did get to work the live HEAT match before the PPV event and was very grateful for that. Getting to wrestle in SkyDome in front of approx. 68,000 people was a big thrill and if that wasn’t great enough I got to tag with “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig.
The HEAT match was Mr. Perfect, Test, and I facing off against Scotty 2 Hotty, Albert (The Hip Hop Hippo), and Rikishi. The match was fine, but watching it back it was rushed and in all honestly poorly booked. By poorly booked I mean the 6 of us should not have been facing off in Toronto. My team was supposed to be the heels but working in Toronto there was no way we were going to get booed. I was still fresh off my run as Mr. Canada in WCW, Test was the home town boy, and great respected workers like Mr. Perfect always get cheered in Toronto. There was one great spot in the match where Mr. Perfect got hit with the Stink Face but managed to block it with his towel and when Rikishi walked out of the corner he had Perfect’s towel stuck between his butt cheeks. If you watch really closely you might notice they set the Stink Face up in the wrong corner and the spot was saved when someone (initials LS) covertly retrieved the towel from the neutral corner and placed it on the apron near Curt so he could do the spot. Rikishi pinned Mr. Perfect in decent but not great match.
I was involved slightly in helping preparing for 2 other matches on this show. About a month out from Mania Ric Flair came to me and asked if I would help him get back into shape for his match with Taker. Ric had not worked in quite a while and wanted to get in the ring and take some bumps to break off some of the ring rust. When he asked me to work out he said it was because he needed to be in the ring with someone who was safe and would take care of him and he thought I was probably his best choice. I took this as a huge compliment, quite probably the biggest of my career and I was thrilled to get in the ring with the Nature Boy. We worked out in the ring before a couple TV tapings, where I gave Ric a bunch of backdrops and suplexes. We also planned to get in the ring at SkyDome and do a full match a couple days before Mania, to test his wind, but unfortunately we couldn’t get access to the ring. This is one of my biggest regrets, as it would have been so cool to work a full singles match with Ric Flair in this monstrously empty building. It likely would have been the favourite match of my career and we would have been the only two people who got to experience it, it would have been an honour.
I also spent a couple hours the afternoon before the show helping Edge practice the Spinarooni. We spent a couple hours working on that stupid thing and by the end of our efforts, we Edge had mat burn all over shoulders and could pull off a poor but tolerable Spinarooni. It’s a shame the one Edge did in his match that night wasn’t nearly as good.
Okay let’s get on with the show. The building was huge, the set was amazing, and the crowd was off the freakin charts. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were on commentary and Howard Finkle was doing the ring announcing, and all three were great! To the matches.
William Regal vs. RVD (Intercontinental Title):
This was a solid opening match, and the crowd was hot for it. They didn’t do anything crazy they just gave us a solid opener and RVD won with the Frog Splash to win the title and the crowd went nuts. Really liked this.
DDP vs. Christian (European Title):
This match was another good solid undercard style match. By that I mean it was very good but they didn’t pull out all the stops, which was exactly what they should have done. There was one or two great near falls and DDP finally hit the Diamond Cutter for the win to retain the title. Another solid very good match. I would imagine it was an intentional tribute to Stampede commentator Ed Whalen when JR used Ed’s famous line, “A malfunction at the junction” in this match and I popped huge for it.
Maven vs. Goldust (Hardcore Title):
This was during the time when they enforced the 24/7 rule for the Hardcore Title. Maven was green as grass off of his Tough Enough win so they kept this short. After a few minutes of action, Spike Dudley ran in from the back and pinned Maven to win the Title. Crash Holly ran in behind him and chased Spike out through the people. Not much of a match but the 24/7 rule would continue through out the show. I’ll continue them here instead of placing them through out my review. Next up backstage we had a drive by in a gold cart by Al Snow and Hurricane swung in on a rope to pin Spike and win the title. Next Molly Holly hits Hurricane in the back of the head with a frying pan and wins the title. Next Christian slams a door in Molly’s face pins here and wins the title. Next, as Christian is getting ready to leave the building Maven sneaks in and rolls Christian up to regain his title, he hops in Christians cab and leaves the building. Just a bunch of silliness but all the bits were short and funny and I think the crowd liked it.
Kurt Angle vs. Kane:
The crowd was not into this at the start, but that may have been because there was a Drowning Pool live performance right before it and concerts at wrestling shows seldom work. The announcers were really playing up the phrase “head trauma” in this match as Kurt hit Kane in the head with the bell before the match started. Every time Kurt suplexed Kane they mentioned he banged his head and suffered “head trauma”. King was at times even laughing about it, I have no idea why. Match got quite great by the end and the crowd was back into things big time. The actual roll up finish got a bit botched but a very strong match here. Kurt picked up the win.
Undertaker vs. Ric Flair (No DQ match):
This match was freakin awesome. This was an old school brawl and both guys were awesome. The heat the drama everything in this was perfect. Flair missed the upside down turnbuckle in the corner on the first attempt but got it on the second try and I remember everyone in the back popping for Ric and happy he managed to pull it off. Both guys were busted open and the crowd was so into this. The near fall spot they did with Arn Anderson running in and hitting Taker with the spine buster was fantastic and all the boys in the back popped huge, as did the crowd. Taker attempted the Last Ride, but it did not go well so he picked Flair up and gave him the Tombstone instead. This match was a piece of art and my favourite match on the show. Taker goes to 10-0
Booker T vs. Edge:
The feud setting this match up was so absurd. They were fighting because they were both up for a commercial promoting a Japanese shampoo company. The absurdity of fighting over a shampoo commercial is bad enough but I’m pretty sure when you consider these guys respective hair type and styles they would not both represent the same type of hair care products. This match was okay but not great. They had a disastrously botched top rope Hurricanrana spot (Booker didn’t have his feet on the second rope) leading into the comeback, but it was Edge’s home town so they popped big on the finish because edge picked up the win.
Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall:
This was quite good with a good story being told with ref bumps and outside interference by Nash. Hall when he is on is really good. I would not say he is a well rounded worker but at this punch, kick, fighting type style he is quite great. A few things of note: You can see a small hole in Halls one pec. He had an infection that they had to cut open and drain and he had about 3 feet of gauze stuffed in that whole. I saw them cleaning it out in the trainer’s room, it was disgusting. Jack Doane made the greatest diving slide running in from the back to make a 2 count. The finish saw Steve hitting 2 Stunners in a row and Hall took the greatest bumps for them. Steve is always good but I think with all of his other issues, over the years, people have forgotten how great Hall could be in the ring.
Chuck & Billy vs. The Dudleys (w/Stacy) vs. TheAPA vs. The Hardys (Tag Team Titles):
Fatal Four Way Elimination match here. This match was very clustered because of the number of bodies out there but they managed to highlight everyone and all the eliminations came off great. The first elimination saw JBL hitting Billy Gunn with the Clothesline from Hell and Billy took the most amazing bump. After hitting the Clothesline JBL turned around and walked into a 3D and got pinned to eliminate the APA. We then got a spot designed to highlight Stacy’s butt, which was fantastic (both the spot and her butt) leading into a very long heat on Jeff Hardy. Next elimination saw Devon get shoved off the top rope through a table on the outside, and Bubba was hit with the Twist of Fate and the Swanton to eliminate The Dudleys. Down to the last two teams they traded a couple great near falls before Billy hit one of the Hardys with the title belt to steel the win and retain the titles. A very good match over all.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock:
This match was so strange to watch now, with a different perspective. The crowd reaction to this was absolutely insane and Hogan in particular was the most over thing on the show. Once you remove yourself from the emotion of the night though this was the strangest match I think I have ever seen. There are two ways you can look at this match. On one hand it was a complete success. The match had a ton of action, pretty much all of which was executed and timed well, and the crowd was super excited the whole time, and it is remembered as an epic match. On the other hand nothing they did got the reaction they intended and the match was pretty much completely ass backwards. The crowd booed Rock’s “shine”, cheered when Hogan got the “heat”, they booed all of Rock’s “hope spots”, and popped on all of Hulk’s “cut offs”. While it didn’t hurt the crowd’s enjoyment of the match I found it almost funny that they were out here executing the set planned match despite the crowd reacting completely opposite to everything they were doing. Rock won in the end and the crowd did pop for him. They shook hands after the match and then Hall and Nash ran down to jump on Hogan so Rock and Hogan could fight them both off together, making Hogan an official baby face, which again was comical because he was the biggest face in the building when the match started. All that aside, the crowd loved this and it was great.
Jazz vs. Lita vs. Trish Stratus (Women’s Title 3-Way):
There was nothing wrong with this match but no one was going to follow Rock – Hogan and the crowd was not into this. They worked hard, it was a little rushed, but nothing they did mattered, they were put in a death spot. Jazz retained pinning Lita.
Chris Jericho (w/Stephanie) vs. HHH (Unified World Title):
This was a really good match that told a great story but they didn’t have any heat, again suffering from being on after Rock and Hogan. For my tastes this was a far better match than the Hogan – Rock match, but on this night the crowd was just too into Hogan for anything after him to matter. The crowd popped big on the finish and I really loved it but it was an anti climactic end to the show.
On the whole this was a really great show. There wasn’t a bad match on the card. The girls would have been the worst match, but to be fair if they were on earlier in the night it would have be a very solid match. All of the matches were good to great, with most closer to great than just good. The Rock – Hogan thing felt epic so even if the rest of the card was poor it would have still been a thumbs up show. Just one interesting note to wrap this up Scott Hall was the only guy on this show I’ve never worked with in some capacity. This was a Great show.