It was 15 years ago today that we saw the greatest WWE pay-per-view of all time. (Editor’s note: I actually wasn’t a fan of wrestling during this time, but I later rented a VHS of this event and promptly lost my mind.) In front of almost 68,000 fans at the Astrodome in Houston, WrestleMania 17 was the perfect combination of an epic buildup (something this year’s WrestleMania severely lacked) and complete and utter unpredictability of the actual matches. The featured matches on the undercard were outstanding, and even the lower-tier matches were more than passable, but the main event between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship took the cake.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The event started with Chris Jericho defending his Intercontinental Title against William Regal in a strong opener, followed by the always-entertaining Bradshaw and Faarooq teaming with Tazz to defeat Right to Censor. Kane retained his Hardcore Championship against Raven and Big Show that saw Raven get thrown through a glass window and subsequently get run over by Kane in a golf cart. Eddie Guerrero then won the European Championship, overcoming a botch by Test in the middle of the match.
Next? A technical showcase between two of the best mat wrestlers ever to grace the squared circle, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. The submission artists tried each other’s finishing holds before Benoit got Angle to tap out to his go-to Crippler Crossface, but the referee was knocked out. Angle escaped with the win after a roll-up pin while holding the tights for leverage.
After Chyna completely dominated Ivory in under three minutes to defend her Women’s Championship, we got to the heart of the card. Shane McMahon met his father Vince McMahon in a street fight after a soap opera-driven buildup that saw the elder McMahon engage in a public affair with Trish Stratus in front of his wife, Linda, while Shane-O-Mac swindled the acquisition of rival promotion WCW right out from under his papa’s nose. We even got Mick Foley as the special guest referee. The match was incredibly fun to watch thanks to Shane’s glorified-stuntman arsenal of moves: flying off the guardrail? Check. Using tons of weapons and diving off the top turnbuckle into the announcer’s table? 10-4, good buddy. The drama escalated even higher when a “medicated” Linda McMahon slowly rose out of her wheelchair and delivered a low blow to Vince, setting up Shane’s death-defying finisher:
As if that wasn’t crazy enough, the next match was a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the Tag Team Championship between Edge & Christian, the Dudley Boyz and the Hardy Boyz. These three teams put on a performance that was pure gold, full of unforgettable highlights. Think about what it took for these six participants, and the three who interfered, to put their bodies on the line in such a fashion, getting smacked with chairs, falling off ladders and crashing into tables. The image of Jeff Hardy suspended above the ring and being speared by Edge back down to the canvas is now iconic, and the finish that saw Matt Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley crash through four tables is legendary. Edge & Christian won the WWF tag titles for their seventh and final time.
There was a short reprieve from the excitement with a 19-man gimmick battle royale that lasted three minutes and was won by the Iron Sheik. The turn-up then immediately returned with Undertaker facing Triple H in the event’s penultimate match. HHH entered to a live performance of his theme song “The Game” by Motorhead and the late Lemmy Kilmister. The match got off to an explosive start with ‘Taker putting HHH through the replacement announcers’ table. Things got crazy when the referee was knocked unconscious and the two competitors brawled outside into the technical area that saw Undertaker survive a brutal assault of chair-shots to chokeslam HHH off the scaffolding down to the concrete floor. Later, HHH countered Undertaker’s Last Ride finisher with a sledgehammer shot to the head, but couldn’t put the Deadman away. ‘Taker executed the move to earn the win and extend his WrestleMania streak to 9-0.
Before we could catch our breaths, The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a no-disqualification match for the WWF title. This is like a time when you had the best appetizer and main course of your life, only to have the chef personally serve you an exquisite dessert you were afraid to eat because you didn’t want the meal to end. From the epic buildup that featured the best promo the WWE has ever produced, to the pure electricity during their entrances to Stone Cold throwing punches before the bell even rang, phrases like “edge of your seat” or “goosebumps” don’t do proper justice to the feeling we had while watching this match. Both men drew blood and absolutely battered each other. Then we got the swerve of the century when Vince McMahon stopped The Rock from pinning Austin, forming an alliance with what was once his biggest nemesis. Stone Cold delivered 16 chair-shots to The Rock to win the title, and he and McMahon shook hands and shared beers over The Rock’s unconscious body to close the show.
“Stone Cold is shaking hands with Satan himself! For the love of God, someone tell me this is not happening!” -Jim Ross
In honor of WrestleMania week, SiriusXM’s Busted Open will be presenting their History Of Texas Wrestling Special on Saturday April 2nd from 2-5PM EST. Doug Mortman and Dave LaGreca talked to some of the biggest names from the Lone Star State such as WWE Superstar Mark Henry and WWE Hall Of Famers, Ric Flair, Jim Ross, Terry Funk and the legendary Kevin Von Erich to talk Texas Wrestling from the Sportatorium all the way to WrestleMania 32. You won’t want to miss it!
Tags:dudley boyzedge & christianhardy boyzshane mcmahonstone cold steve austinthe rocktriple hundertakervince mcmahonwrestlemaniawrestlemania 32wwe
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