WrestleMania 16: The One with a McMahon in every corner. Peak of the WWF’s hubris in the Attitude Era. With WCW now pretty much a non-factor in the wrestling war having tanked themselves over the previous year, the WWF stood tall as the number one promotion in North America. They responded by making the whole show about the owners family. It’s McMahon in every corner time. Because they’re the real stars.
Ring announcer Lillian Garcia sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ to kick us off. We’re in Anaheim at the Arrowhead Pond for this year’s show, back as host after Mania XII. Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler are on commentary.
The opening video package focuses exclusively on the main event, and the McMahon heavy set up.
WrestleMania 16: Big Boss Man & Bull Buchanan vs The Godfather & D’Lo Brown
The WWE Network version of the show sees The Godfather and D’Lo teleport to the ring as their entrance was originally soundtracked by rapper Ice-T. A bit of a contrast between these two teams, the flamboyant D’Lo and Godfather against their stoic and dressed-in-black opponents. Godfather is dressed particularly similar to Rick James.
Some decent back and forth with D’Lo and Godfather getting a run in to warm the crowd up. Jim Ross brings up Big Boss Man’s ‘sparkling’ record at WrestleMania, a funny comment given the previous year Boss Man had been hung live on PPV. The in ring isn’t bad but it’s not all that interesting either. Boss Man gets the biggest reaction since the bell rang for shouting ‘we the best’. Thankfully D’Lo is here to pull out a top rope ‘Hurricanrana’ and a tag to the Godfather to turn things around. It looks like D’Lo and Godfather are close to victory but their opponents sneak the advantage and pick up the win. Nothing bad but it’s a forgettable opener.
We go backstage to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon who are gloating about their titles. Then we get a skit building to the following match.
WrestleMania 16: Hardcore Battle Royal for the WWF Hardcore Championship
Thirteen entrants have fifteen minutes to batter as many people others as possible. Any and all title changes in the match count in the lineage but its only the person who gets the final pinfall inside the time limit who will be the outright winner of the match.
Within the first minute the title changes hands twice, first Tazz wins, then Viscera beats him. It’s a big ugly brawl, mostly next to the ring instead of inside it. Some weapons used are goofy, some just look painful. Crash Holly is the first notable bloody mess. A lot of people are just stood around for no real reason. That and a lot of head trauma.
There’s some teamwork between Kaientai and The Acolytes before the match heads backstage. There are a lot of quick title changes before we go back to the entranceway. Pete Gas of the Mean Street Posse looks as if he’s in a slasher movie, it’s gross and way worse than anyone else is bleeding. Back into the ring as Tazz becomes the Champion again. Crash Holly wins his belt back but a strange looking ending leads to Hardcore Holly pinning him and being declared the winner. Turns out they’d mistimed the final moments.
A recap of WrestleMania Axxess, Val Venis, Chyna and Chris Jericho getting some promo time. Terri Runnels, Big Show, T&A, Tazz, D-Von Dudley, Steve Austin, Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman all get bits of hype. Some are just hype pieces for the event, some feel like mini promos for the talent themselves. The Rock wraps it all up.
WrestleMania 16: T&A (Test & Albert) vs Head Cheese (Al Snow & Steve Blackman)
Al Snow has been trying to give Steve Blackman a personality, something evidenced by a weird little skit in a bathroom where Snow is talking to someone hiding in a stall. T&A are introduced with a close up of Trish Stratus’ cleavage. As you do. Head Cheese enter and Snow introduces their new mascot, a small man in a cheese costume called Chester McCheeserton. It’s aged about as well as cheese from 2000 would have.
Almost immediately Jim Ross’ headset breaks and Lawler gets a chance to call the action solo for a while. He spends it trying to persuade Trish Stratus to join the desk or just ogling her. Blackman and Snow are in control of the match for a decent portion as commentary are continually distracted by both Stratus and Chester at ringside. It all gets a touch sloppy as Jim Ross says it has ‘bowling shoe tendencies’, which is his polite code for rubbish. The finish comes slightly out of nowhere, Blackman is isolated and he ends up pinned.
Snow & Blackman bring Chester McCheeserton into the ring and beat him up for the bit. The saving grace of this entire segment is Al Snow’s comedic timing but it doesn’t save it that much.
We cut to The Kat backstage with Mae Young as they recreate the Austin Powers sight gag where they hold things up to cover the cover the Kat’s nudity. It’s hysterical…
WrestleMania 16: Edge & Christian vs The Dudley Boyz vs The Hardy Boyz
Triangle Ladder Match for the WWF Tag Team Championships
Finally, an island of worthwhile in a sea of mediocre. The first in what would become an epic rivalry between these three teams, escalating at every step. The first triple threat tag team ladder match. Great pre match promo from The Dudley Boyz backstage. Jeff Hardy steps under three ladders on his way to the ring , it was only six years earlier that the first Mania ladder match only featured a single ladder.
There’s not much benefit to trying to call the action here, there’s six men involved and it’s near constant chaos the whole time. It doesn’t take long before ladders are being thrown around as weapons and people are getting thrown at or on to them. Jeff Hardy takes a particularly big beating but his brother Matt isn’t far behind him. In fact, pretty much everyone involved takes a beating at some point or another.
We get the first of what would be a few times Edge would spear Jeff Hardy from a height, it’s not quite the most iconic but it’s a precursor. Some of the sequences are fairly complicated, even convoluted, but they’re broken up with simple, logical moments that stop it from becoming too chaotic. It’s a car crash for sure, but it’s not out of control. The top down camera angle that replays some moments is a nice addition that really adds something to the action.
The Dudley Boyz help further the path to the TLC match by adding a table or two to the mix. They briefly take both of the Hardy’s out with the tables before setting up another construction on the entranceway. Jeff adds a highlight to his personal reel by diving from a supersized ladder through Bubba Ray and a table.
Edge & Christian retrieve the title belts to become Tag Team Champions for the first of many times. A brilliant match that left plenty in the tank for future instalments in the three-way rivalry between these teams. An epic that lives up to its reputation.
Backstage to Mick Foley and Linda McMahon, the only McMahon with zero acting skill or charisma. Thankfully Foley is there to save the segment.
WrestleMania 16: Terri Runnels vs The Kat
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Two untrained non-wrestlers struggling to throw each other out of the ring. With Val Venis as the guest referee. Oh and the Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young are about. Both women kiss Venis to try and distract here. That’s about as interesting as it gets.
Terri Runnels gets thrown out of the ring twice when Venis is distracted, when he is finally able to pay attention, Terri is in the ring and the Kat is on the floor so Terri wins.
That’s it. Moving on. Rubbish.
WrestleMania 16: Chyna & Too Cool (Grandmaster Sexay & Scotty 2 Hotty)
vs The Radicalz (Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko & Eddie Guerrero)
It’s all about Guerrero and Chyna, Guerrero has been recently obsessed with Chyna. The Radicalz had only been in the company since January the same year, after making the group jump from WCW. Guerrero is almost constantly looking at, and winking at, Chyna, with Saturn and Malenko trying to keep him focussed on the match itself.
When Chyna gets involved, Guerrero scarpers out of the ring and leaves his teammates to it. Grandmaster and Scotty are almost constant motion, and noise (a lot of noise) but they can hold their own enough in the ring. The majority of the good work is from the trio of Radicalz, so much of what they do looks effortless and satin smooth. After taunting her all match and avoiding fighting her, Guerrero attacks Chyna when the referee is distracted. Guerrero then takes a suplex from the ring to the floor so it doesn’t all go his way. Scotty 2 Hotty hits the rare double ‘Worm’, clearly saving that for WrestleMania.
Chyna goes after Guerrero, but the referee interjects himself, throughout the match he comes across as easily distracted and lenient at the same time. Chyna fights her way past Malenko and Saturn trying to get her hands on Guerrero, who blindsides her when she’s got her hands full. Chyna does finally get her hands on Guerrero properly, a press slam (with testicular claw assist) and Chyna pins Guerrero.
An enjoyable match, with plenty of personalities balanced out with enjoyable in ring work. The following night Chyna would turn around and team up with Guerrero to start her run as Eddie’s ‘Mamacita’.
We see a contest winner before a Big Show and Shane McMahon promo.
WrestleMania 16: Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho
Two Fall Triple Threat Match for the WWF Intercontinental & European Championships
One year into his pro wrestling career, Angle is already a double champion and on for probably the greatest rookie year in history. This triple threat two falls match for both of Angle’s belts is Bob Backlund’s idea, Angle beating Backlund up on the pre-show for suggesting the idea. Angle’s pre-match promo segment with a security guard is classic, oblivious, dipshit Angle.
It’s all three men’s first WrestleMania match, three future Mania Main Eventers and World Champions. An In-ring promo from Jericho shows off his crowd control and charisma in a nice little package. The first fall of the match is for the Intercontinental Title and kicks off straight away, Benoit attacking Angle before he’s even made it to the ring.
With three of the smoothest and most versatile in ring workers of their generation it’s a very well executed, clean and crisp match. Jericho is probably the flashiest, bringing the high-flying ingredients to balance the mat exchanges of Angle and Benoit. Lawler can’t seem to get his head wrong the rules at a few points, including mixing up Benoit with Radicalz teammate Dean Malenko. The first fall comes when Benoit pins Jericho after a diving headbutt with Angle stuck on the outside. Benoit is the new Intercontinental Champion, and we continue straight into the second fall.
Angle goes for his moonsault and, as often happened, missed it. After some solid work between various different combinations of the three men, the referee is knocked down. Jericho taps out to Benoit’s ‘Crossface’ but no one is there to notice. Angle takes advantage with a belt shot but Benoit breaks up the pin as the referee gets back up. Benoit misses a diving headbutt and Jericho hits his ‘Lionsault’ to pin Benoit and become European Champion.
A clever layout, Angle leaving the match with neither title despite not having been pinned for either fall. Second best match on the night for sure.
Backstage again to Mr. McMahon talking about the Rock and the main event. Triple H responds with another bit with Stephanie, and we move on.
WrestleMania 16: Kane & Rikishi vs D-Generation X (X-Pac & Road Dogg)
Tori had been Kane’s girlfriend but left him for X-Pac earlier in the year. She gets in Paul Bearer’s face as the match begins before ending up in the ring at the mercy of Rikishi. DX try and run away but get brought back into the ring forcibly.
Commentary talk a lot about Rikishi’s posterior and Lawler uses an ableist slur that surprisingly hasn’t been edited out. It’s an uninteresting brawl, the highlights being Rikishi putting his arse in people’s face and Tori getting thrown to a corner in an ugly fashion. Kane & Rikishi win after a ‘Tombstone’ to X-Pac.
Too Cool come out to dance and are joined by the San Diego Chicken sports mascot. That’s the disguise Pete Rose used the year before to attack Kane and commentary openly speculate it’s Rose yet again. Too Cool and the Chicken dance for a bit, Kane not looking impressed. Post-dance, Kane gets his hands on the Chicken, but it turns out it isn’t Pete Rose. Rose tries to sneak attack Kane but is beaten up for his efforts. A fun trilogy of appearances for Rose at successive WrestleManias.
The Rock is backstage for his promo on the Main event. He runs all of his classic catchphrases. It’s by far the most interesting of the four promos building the main event.
WrestleMania 16: Triple H vs The Rock vs Mick Foley vs Big Show
Elimination Match for the WWF Championship
The one with a McMahon in every corner. Triple H is the champion and joined by Stephanie. The Rock is with Mr. McMahon. Mick Foley has been added to the match by Linda. And Big Show is an afterthought with Shane in his corner.
Foley gets a lot attention for this being his apparent ‘last match’. He’d wrestle for another 11 years.
All four men are always legal meaning that there’s constant action right from the off. Big Show gets a couple of opportunities to show off his power and bely his status as the least interesting addition to this match. Foley climbs on his back and takes the same nasty looking landing that he did the previous year, Big Show falling backwards with Foley on his back. After an early run for Show, the other three men in the match team up to focus on him, briefly at least. Shane tries to get involved but is taken out and Big Show gets eliminated early, less than five minutes in.
It takes a moment for Big Show to clear ringside. The Rock and Foley look like they might be teaming up against Triple H before Triple H himself tries to form a team with both men in succession. It doesn’t work. It’s a big two on one beatdown for a while before The Rock unintentionally hits Foley with the ring bell. It’s brawling and similar for the most part. Foley gets a chance to take out Triple H with ‘Mr Socko’, then puts in on The Rock in a shock moment. That lets Triple H recover and come back.
Foley almost eliminates The Rock a couple of times as he and Triple H start to team up as the match starts to look like a handicap match for a while. It’s not all that interesting action, it takes a while before we get anything particularly spectacular. And even the Foley’s dive to the Spanish announce table comes up short and Triple H has to cover for him with two successive attempts to break the table. It’s a sloppy sequence.
Triple H then turns on Foley, two ‘Pedigrees’, one on a chair, and Foley is eliminated. It’s down to Triple H vs The Rock, the match is probably should have been throughout. Foley gets a big ovation for his ‘last match’, sneaking back to the ring to hit Triple H with a barbed wire bat.
Triple H and Rock now start to brawl away from the ring for a change. Right through the crowd and back to ringside. Jim Ross tries his best to sell this as an epic collision but it’s too slow and generally sloppy to be all that compelling. The hot crowd definitely helps elevate what is otherwise largely a walk and brawl. The portion of the match once it’s down to just Rock and Triple H is about 15 minutes, this coming after twenty minutes of action earlier on. Safe to say it’s not paced particularly well; it feels unedited and a bit self-indulgent. A Triple H trademark in later years but this is a prime example of a forced epic.
After Vince McMahon interjects himself physically by attacking Triple H, Shane McMahon returns to remind us all that this match is about the McMahon’s, not the wrestlers. Their sloppy brawl takes up a couple of minutes of airtime. After that diversion it’s back to the actual match. And then it’s back to more McMahon BS as Shane gets involved a second time, Vince running down to run him off. Vince then turns on the Rock and hits Rock with a steel chair. Given that little over five minutes earlier Vince had attacked Triple H, him now teaming up with H doesn’t make much sense. Two chair shots from McMahon and Triple H pins to win.
What a mess. Overlong and illogically laid out. Feels like the worst excesses of Vince Russo’s booking style, except Russo was long gone from the company by this point. The Rock gets to beat up Vince, Shane, and Stephanie McMahon post-match to get some measure of revenge. Triple H makes history as the first heel to win a Mania main event. But The Rock stands tall at the end of the night anyway.
A really poor show. Much like the previous year it feels like a glorified episode of TV. The catfight, Chester McCheeserton, the very boring overlong main event. It’s all here. The saving graces are the triangle ladder match, which is a classic, and the two falls triple threat, which is hurt by feeling rushed.
A dull, far-too-long main event with an illogical finish and mostly bland action drag the whole event down. Thankfully there’s a much more well-remembered show just around the corner.