It’s very difficult to argue against Wrestlemania 17 being the greatest PPV of all time, never mind greatest Wrestlemania. If ever in any doubt as to how strong the WWE was in 2001 then you need only look at the card which will make any wrestling fan salivate at the prospect. Stand out matches? In abundance. Dud matches? Only a couple. Wrestlemania moments? How does Shane McMahon jumping off the top rope to dropkick a steel can into the face of his father at the other side of the ring grab you?
It’s easy to run out of superlatives for this card as it really has everything. You have brawling, highspots, technical wrestling, title changes and Austin turning heel. Let’s start with the negatives, HHH v Undertaker was a very average match and Chyna squashed Ivory in a match that didn’t really need to take place at the event. That’s it, two poor matches on the card. Others will mention the gimmick battle royal won by the Iron Sheik as a dud but it served its purpose, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane as the fans got to see guys from their childhood competing in the ring again. The roster for the Battle Royal itself was awesome: The Iron Sheik, The Bushwackers, Duke Droese, Doink the Clown, Nikolai Volkoff, Tugboat, The Goon, Earthquake, Gobbledy Gooker, Brother Love, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, Kamala, Kim Chee, Jim Cornette, Repo Man, Hillbilly Jim and Sgt. Slaughter. Absolutely it highlighted how grim the early 90s gimmicks in the WWE but we also got Mean Gene and Bobby the Brain calling the match and for that alone it can’t be described as a dud.
The show kicked-off well with an intercontinental championship match between the then champion Chris Jericho and his challenger William Regal. I liked these two together in the ring and think they work well. Regal’s awkward at times style doesn’t work with everyone but it did here and they put on a good match that Jericho won, retaining his title.
The next match was a short one and saw Tazz and The APA (Bradshaw and Faarooq) beat Right to Censor (The Goodfather, Val Venis and Bull Buchanan) after Bradshaw hit his savage looking ‘clothesline from hell’. Kane then won the hardcore title in a triple threat match against Raven and the Big Show after knocking both men off the stage then hitting a leg drop on to them for the 3 count.
The next two bouts featured members of the Radicalz, first up Eddie Guerroro began his rise by winning the European title from Test following help from Perry Saturn and Chris Benoit then Benoit lost out to Kurt Angle in two very good mid card matches.
We’ll not talk too much about Chyna becoming new Women’s champion in less than 3 minutes owing to fact the match was a squash. Then came the match between Shane and Vince. Some people are critical of this one but I’m quite the fan of it and it’s even better when you consider how little wrestling time both had had to this point. Some great spots too including the aforementioned Van Terminator on Vince. A great fifteen minute brawl that was good entertainment on the TV and must have had the crowd going.
On the subject of great spots and quality entertainment, the next match took both of those to a new level as Edge and Christian defeated the Dudleyz and the Hardy’s in TLC II to win the tag team championships. I’ve talked about this match, albeit briefly, before and it’s one of the many wrestlemaia matches you can watch time and time again and still be amazed. These guys did everything they could to make the match a success and boy did they succeed with their aim.
It was always going to be tricky for anyone following that to keep the momentum going but the Gimmick Battle Royal was a great trip down memory lane assisted by the always excellent Bobby ‘the brain’ Heenan on the commentary. Taker v HHH was also a bit of a dud, I’ve never been that much of a fan of the Undertaker’s matches in general and in particular on the greatest stage of them all. This one was no different. It would be generous to award this more than a four. Still, least they haven’t persevered with matches between the two… Oh.
So, TLC was match of the night, right and nothing could top that? Well, wrong actually. The no-disqualification main event between the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin is right up there in terms of best Wrestlemania main events. This match was the second one, and best, in their trilogy that concluded at Wrestlemania XIX. This match really had it all, they took it into the crowd, they both bled, Rock hit Austin with a stunner and Austin turned heel and joined forces with his former nemisis Vince McMahon at the end and shared beers with him. A fantastic end to a great show. 30 minutes of two of the biggest starts in WWE history just going for it and ending with a turn that nobody really saw coming.
Want to watch a great Wrestlemania? You’ll struggle to better this one.