December 03, 2011
WrestleMania XX was from New York City and as the expression goes, it's were it all begins again. I was at but not on this WrestleMania, which I will get to in a minute so I have lots of personal memories from the show. My wife came with me to this show so it turned into more of a site seeing vacation for me than a wrestling event. I got in before she did and did a little visiting on my own with some of the author and book people I knew from the New York area. I got a tour of Warner books from then editing assistant, now author Jason Pinter, (picked up a ton of free books), and had lunch with authors Lee Child, Lawrence Block, and publicist Maggie Griffin. Once my wife got there we hit some of the more common sites like the Empire State Building, and Time Square.
As for the wrestling end of the show I was a little pissed about being left off the show. After missing Mania 19 despite being World Tag Team Champions, missing out again this year to a team far less deserving felt like a real slap in the face. There was a 4 Team Tag Team match for the World Tag Team Titles that had one open spot left in it that ended up going to Mark Jyndrak and Garrison Cade which I felt Val and I deserved seeing that we were not only better workers but more senior members of the roster.
That said I did play a small wrestling role on the show as I helped Fit Finlay put the women's title match together. They had a ring set up in the hotel the week before the show and I often helped out with the women's matches so Molly, Victoria, Fit and I got together the day before the show and put together the Title vs. Hair match.
I almost played another role in the show as I pitched an idea for the show the previous year at WrestleMania 19. When they revealed the big WrestleMania XX banner in Seattle and I saw they used the roman numerals I got the idea of calling the show WrestleMania "Double X" you would still use the XX but when saying the name you would call it Double X, (like the clothing size), and the slogan for the show could be "Larger than Ever". WrestleMania "Double X" Larger than Ever.
I took the idea to Paul Heyman and asked him what he thought, thinking that if he liked it he could pitch it to creative. Paul loved the idea but thought I should get credit for the idea so he told me to go pitch it to Stephanie. I pitched it to Steph who also liked it and she recommended I pitch it to Vince first hand. Later that afternoon I tracked down Vince and pitched to him WrestleMania "Double X" Larger than Ever. Vince really liked the idea, especially the Larger than Ever bit, and we shock hands and I left our short meeting thinking, "He will have to put me on the show next year, if I end up being the one that names the show." He didn't use the name, I’m not sure if he just forgot, or they liked the "Where it all begins again" better; in any event I didn't name the show or get put on it and the rest as they say is history.
Due to a DVD glitch I kind of lost the flow of the show watching it so I'm not sure I'll be able to offer an over all feel for the show. The DVD I have is a 2 disc set and the first disc started sticking a bit during the HOF introduction and kicked out when they were over. I thought that was the end of disc one and switched to the next disc. Once I was up to the main event I noticed I hadn't seen the Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg match yet and wondered what happened. I went back and checked disc 1 and found out that it kicked out before not only the Goldberg match but the women's tag match, the Cruiser weight deal, and the 4 way WWE Tag Title match. I went back and watched those matches but it ruined the flow of the show and hampered my over all enjoyment a little bit. I also skipped the Main event, not being able to bring myself to watch that match or the post match celebration. I found it hard enough watching the Eddie Guerrero match so as soon as the main event video packages started I turned the show off.
Enough of all that let's get to the action. We had two announce teams for this show, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler representing RAW, Michael Cole and Tazz representing Smack Down. Both teams were fantastic and so much better than anything you hear on WWE TV today. Not only were they just better announcing teams they were actually allowed to talk about the matches and the wrestling going on in the ring. Huge thumbs up to both pairings. Seeing how good Cole was back then makes me even more against what they are doing with him now, which I didn’t think was possible.
Big Show vs. John Cena (US Title match):
Big Show had hair and John Cena was "Word Life" Thug-a-nomics John Cena and my God was he over as a baby face. This was just crazy when compared to his reaction in this same building a couple weeks ago at Survivor Series. The NY crowd absolutely loved this man. The match was just Show beating the hell out of Cena, who took way better bumps back then, until Cena made a brief comeback and hit the FU on the near 500 lbs Big Show. The placed went nuts but Show kicked out, leading to Cena distracting the ref, hitting Big Show with either his "Word" or his "Life" jewelry gimmick followed by another FU for the pin to win the US Title. The place went bat shit crazy for John Cena when he won. Not a great match by any stretch but it did the job and the crowd loved it.
Booker & RVD vs. La Resistance vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Jyndrak & Cade (World tag Team Titles):
Matches with this many bodies are never good, and I contend this one would have been better had Val and I been in it. Nothing wrong with it but it was a cluster early, then picked up into a good finish, leading to Booker and RVD retaining the titles.
Chris Jericho vs. Christian:
The video package showing the build up for this match was awesome and really draws attention to how far the quality of angles has dropped in the business today. This was a great feud and one hell of a good match, with an awesome finish and post match angle. This is what "A Swerve" is supposed to be, they made us think one way, went another and then when the reveal was made, it still all made sense. This was fantastic.
Flair, Batista, Orton vs. Rock & Sock Connection:
This match personifies what this business is all about. For all those people on Twitter that keep asking me about favorite moves or finishers, and don't understand when I say it's not about moves or finishers, this match is your explanation. This was an incredible match that had the people excited the whole way through and consisted of very little outside of punches and clotheslines. Wrestling is about making fans care about the people involved and then taking them through the emotional back and forth struggle of combat. The crowd popped like crazy through out this match because of the emotional changing of the tide of the match not because guys did specific moves. The People's Elbow spot with Ric Flair and The Rock should be studied by everyone in the business today so they can learn how do to this business right. The finish was another "the business the way it's supposed to be" moment. The veteran put over the future star… CLEAN, and they both sold it like it was significant and it meant something. Foley didn't shrug it off smiling, the announcers didn't send it to the back, and Orton fell to his knees with excitement and relief that he had managed to defeat such an iconic figure. This match and finish needs to be watched, studied, and explained to everyone "writing" wrestling today, because this is what pro-wrestling is all about.
Torrie Wilson & Sable vs. Stacey Keibler & Miss Jackie:
This was a Playboy evening gown match but the girls just took their gowns off and wrestled in their lingerie. This match was mostly just an excuse to get 4 extremely hot women on the show wearing next to nothing and in that regard it succeeded in spades. That being said by the standards of women's matches in WWE today, this was also a pretty decent match. Torrie did a cross body off the top rope with out knee pads or shoes. Not sure I'd be willing to do that. Torrie and Sable won, and the crowd got an extended ass and crotch shot of poor Jackie on the pin. I thought holding the pin on her in that position for that long was disrespectful. Tazz and Cole were joking pretty much the whole time just popping about ogling the girls, but I do have to mention one exchange that I popped for. They were real excited going back and forth about something and Cole screams, "Ouch… you just stabbed me with you pencil" to which Tazz responded, "That wasn't my pencil."
The Cruiserweight Open:
Chavo Guerrero was the camp going in and this was a random gauntlet type match with guys just feeding in after each pin fall. There were 10 guys in total so we got 9 people eliminated in 11 minutes which made for non stop action but very little emotional investment. The finish came down to Rey Mysterio and Chavo, and Chavo won with the help from Chavo Sr. (Not yet renamed Chavo Classic). Finish was a bit off but all of the action was good for the time they were allowed to perform it. Billy Kidman also almost died on a Top Rope Shooting Star Press to the floor. Fun cruiserweight action.
Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg (Steve Austin as Ref):
This match started off so slow and bad it was painful to watch. I remember posting that I thought it was bad at the time but Oh My God they did nothing forever in this match. Once they finally got going the last minute or 2 wasn't bad but Holy Christ for a WrestleMania match that could have been so huge this was really bad. Definitely the worst match Steve Austins was ever a part of. Both guys took Stunners on their way out, so they were professionals at the end at least.
Rikishi & Scotty vs. WGTT vs. Bashams vs. APA (WWE Tag Team Titles):
Like the tag title match before it, this was sloppy early (not much else you can do in a match like this) but it came together well at the end with the champs Rikishi and Scotty retaining. Damn Bradshaw had the best looking clothesline in the business.
Victoria vs Molly Holy (Title vs Hair Match):
This watch was a lot better than the women's matches you see today too. They only had 5 minutes but they took their time better and didn't do too much so the match felt more significant. Great finish but the hair cut took forever. Fun little match.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (WWE Championship):
My God this belt is so much better than the one they use now; they have to get rid of that spinny belt design. There was some great wrestling here but I found it hard to watch. Eddie's facial expressions looked so sad in this match and knowing that he is gone just took all the fun out of watching this match. Great finish, I'm amazed they managed to space it out so Eddie could lock his feat around the bottom rope while maintaining the small package. Eddie retains.
The Undertaker vs. Kane:
I believe this match would put Undertaker at 12-0. There was a big deal made here about Undertaker returning from the dead for this match but I can't recall what the angle was which took a fair bit of the drama away from the match for me. For the size of these guys it's amazing to watch how fast and agile they are. I occasionally get students at my school that would be small cruiser weights who can't match Undertakers, speed, agility or leaping ability. A solid enough match but nothing compared to Taker’s last 4 or 5 Mania outings.
Main Event 3 Way World Title Match:
I recall this being an incredible match but after how sad watching Eddie made me, I could not bring myself to watch this match. Some people might be able to separate art from real life but when you have a personal connection to the whole thing it's just not that simple.
All in all this was a pretty damn fine show. Apart from the Lesnar – Goldberg match there wasn't a bad match on the show. Everything else was good to very good with 4 matches being quite great. An excellent show fitting of Madison Square Garden and WrestleMania XX. As a footnote the WrestleMania qualifying match Val Venis and I had against the Dudley the week before WrestleMania XX is an extra on the DVD. It's a very solid match that gets quite excellent by the end.
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