It is widely regarded as one of the best WrestleMania’s of all time, but 20 years on does it stack up? Matthew Roberts completes his Road To WrestleMania TWM Time Machine™ trip with the big show itself. 

    To recap, ECW is dead. WCW is dead. Vince is now the only game in town.  And one of the main storyline lead-in’s to the main event of the biggest show of the year involves Debra managing The Rock…

    Still, if the build-up, as witnessed in running through the Raw’s and Smackdown’s leading up to the show, wasn’t quite as “classic” as remembered the PPV itself is one of the most celebrated in WWE history.  Mania is back in a Stadium for the first time in years and the whole set up screams big-time.  So let’s get straight to it.

    Chris Jericho Vs William Regal

    The build-up to this was fun if a little all over the place.  As daft as it may sound in 2021 for a feud to be ignited by Jericho pissing in Regal’s cup of tea, smashing a framed portrait of Queen Elizabeth and the like this is what things were like twenty years ago.  It does mean that there is a hot crowd for this one, obviously helped by the fact that the crowd is always hot for the opening match of a big show when it’s done properly and the atmosphere does help overcome a slight clash of styles. 

    Given that they are only out here for seven minutes they tone down Regal’s usual mat work and go for some good old fashioned hard-hitting violence.  They are clever enough to actually sell moves and it’s a nice touch that Regal injuring Jericho’s shoulder leads to Y2J not being able to apply the Walls of Jericho.  In the end, he turns the tables and sends Regal into the exposed turnbuckle that the dastardly commissioner had used earlier and a Lionsault wraps up the win.

    A perfectly acceptable opener that takes two guys who are over as characters and lets them make the most of what they can in the ring. 

    WrestleMania X-7: The Acolytes & Tazz Vs Right To Censor

    Aka, get some people on the card for a pay-off and get them out of there as quickly as possible.  It would be difficult to wax lyrical about this one and I doubt anyone outside the men involved and their immediate families would have been upset if this hadn’t made the card.  The RTC is doing their usual shtick but their opponents interrupt.  From there it’s a quick brawl, that the good guys dominate and win and that is that.  In a nostalgic way as a reminder of the time when Mania’s did have these virtual squash matches all over the place, it serves a purpose. 

    Raven Vs The Big Show Vs Kane

    At the time it would be safe to say that this wasn’t exactly hotly anticipated.  Kane and Show had been more involved as bit-part players in the Triple H/Taker feud and their involvement with Hardcore Champion Raven kind of ignored the latter so he almost came across as an afterthought in the match that was for the title that he held. 

    In some ways, this was your typical Hardcore title match of the era where the participants would ramble away from the ring and waffle each other with whatever they could find. Yet as befits Mania this is so far over-the-top even compared to the usual stuff that it has to go down as one of the most ridiculously entertaining matches of its type in the WWE’s history. Big Show goes through a wall, Kane gets thrown through a door and Raven even has time to drive a golf cart during the match which sees Show jump on the back of it whilst Kane commandeers another one to give chase.  Back on the stage, a big elbow from height by Kane gets him the win. 

    This is so different from anything else on the show and actually comes across as important and not a throwaway in any sense of the word.  Fabulous stuff. 

    Test Vs Eddie Guerrero

    It’s worth remembering that this title match at Mania was announced by the commentators on TV whilst a shot of Eddie Guerrero eating his dinner at WWF New York was aired…coming the week after Guerrero had done a clean job in minutes to Test in a match.  The “good old days” that people reminisce about when complaining about how some matches are set up at modern Mania’s weren’t always that good you know.

    When he was motivated and still had dreams of becoming a much bigger star Test seemed to have a lot going for him.  Guerrero, whatever his personal problems at times, was always a stellar worker too.  So whilst the build-up has been pretty non-existent for this one the match itself is actually quite good mid-card fodder.  Test’s strength gets him the early momentum but Guerrero’s whiles (and the interference by Perry Saturn) gets him back in it.  Test seemingly overcomes the odds only for Dean Malenko to interfere and stop a pin and that distraction is enough for Eddie to lay Test out and pick up the win.

    It’s far from a long-lost classic and given that both men are no longer with us is a bitter-sweet experience to watch.  But it’s nice and solid and does a good job of being a dominant babyface falling prey to the heel’s numbers game.

    WrestleMania X-7: Chris Benoit Vs Kurt Angle

    Although these two had been going back and forth for the weeks leading up to Mania, it was only in the last week before the show that it was officially announced that the two would be clashing one-on-one.  In a change of pace for the WWE, the battle between the two has been built around both wanting to prove they are the better wrestler.  In the weeks leading up to the show, both have tapped to the others submissions, even in Angle was at pains to point out that he either hadn’t or had but it hadn’t counted. 

    There’s a lot of on-the-mat grappling in the early stages and Benoit gets close a couple of times to lock in his submission.  That this frustrates Angle to the point that he loses his cool, slaps his opponent and then sends him into the steel steps and the commentary table is a cool storyline move.  It shows that whilst Angle wants to prove his superiority as a wrestler he’s not above a good old fashioned slugfest.  The two go back and forth and also exchange some glorious suplexes.  They also each have a go at the other’s finisher submissions.  In the end, though it’s a low blow from Angle and a handful of tights that give him the win. 
    On the one hand, it’s a bit of a shame that WM is the opening salvo between the two in terms of a singles match and not the climactic end.  But then again, there’s a beauty in their first high profile meeting being at the biggest show of the year.  And Angle being a heel to take the win that way is great too. 

    WrestleMania X-7: WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
    Ivory Vs Chyna

    Ivory, thanks to her Right To Censor stablemates, broke Chyna’s neck.  This was the WWE’s way of putting Chyna in the Women’s Division and you have to at least say that’s a good storyline logic.  Ivory gets some early moments of glory in the form of about three punches before Chyna takes over and dominates.  Clothesline, powerbomb, press slam, pin.

    There’s logic to the quick and devastating win.  It’s what the fans wanted, it’s what the storyline built to.  That Chyna vacated the belt later in the year when a contract dispute saw her leave the promotion muddies the water somewhat.  But Chyna would only have one PPV defence (against Lita in a poor match at Judgement Day 200) and a handful of TV matches after this for the WWE.  And really, what could they do with her.  Rightly or wrongly the impression is that she felt the women’s division was beneath her and for all the plaudits that go her way she was never a “great worker” in the sense of someone who could have carried the women’s division, not least because doing so would have meant treating other women as equal in the ring. 

    Still, on the night this did all it needed to do.

    WrestleMania X-7: STREETFIGHT
    Vince McMahon Vs Shane McMahon

    Mick Foley is your special guest referee.  Stephanie McMahon is at ringside.  We have the promise of Trish Stratus and a comatose, wheelchair-bound Linda McMahon turning up.  And Shane is part of the match so we’re going to get him doing something that lesser mortals (i.e. contracted wrestlers who might actually make the company money) probably aren’t allowed to do in case it got them over.  But this is Vince vs Shane.  It’s WrestleMania.  If ever there was a time for overbooking, this is it. 

    They sensibly just concentrate on brawling and beating each other up in between Shane doing hard-man stuff.  The crowd absolutely laps all this up, all the way. Trish turns back babyface (at least meaning the month or so of degrading spots making out with Vince etc have a pay off), Steph slaps Foley (because that’s what Steph does) and Linda reveals she’s not actually comatose and low blows Vince in yet another moment that the fans love (and again, gives a storyline comeuppance to Vince for being a complete and utter, well, prick to everyone).  Shane ends with a Coast to Coast that kicks a trashcan straight into Vince’s mush. 

    Is this a classic “wrestling” match, no.  But it is a classic slice of “sports entertainment”, of course, it is.  Booked to perfection, Vince gets what’s coming to him on the biggest stage of them all and Trish and Linda get their own version of revenge/redemption too. 

    Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match
    Dudley’s Vs Edge & Christian Vs Hardy’s

    The trio of teams had already “done” this match at the previous year’s WrestleMania (well there it was “just” a ladder match and Summerslam.  It seems almost lazy to book it for the third time.  And even though five of the six are still wrestling today in 2021 two spent years on the shelf and two others have had a myriad of problems.  Not all to do with these three matches of course, but you can’t pretend that matches like this have serious consequences. 

    Still, that aside from the fact that these three teams could follow up two wonderful stunt-filled matches with a third that arguably tops them all is just an amazing feat.  It’s impossible to give a play by play on it.  The myriad bumps they take here leave you breathless just watching.  As a stunt-filled match, it still lives up to the hype today.  The twist here, which has been foreshadowed in the build-up, is that Spike Dudley, Rhino and Lita all get involved in the match.  In lesser hands it’s overbooked but the run-ins just add to the chaotic charm of this one.  To this day it’s arguably still the greatest TLC type match of all time.  Edge & Christian win but that’s almost irrelevant.

    WrestleMania X-7: Gimmick Battle Royal

    This should be all kinds of awful really shouldn’t it?  There’s a lot of chaff amongst the wheat in the lineup but then again that’s part of the appeal.  Mene Gene and Bobby Heenan on commentary add a wonderfully nostalgic edge to things (Heenan: “By the time (Sheik) makes the ring it will be WrestleMania 38) and this is so ridiculous that anyone who has ever watched the WWE since the first WM can’t fail to be amused by it.  Iron Sheik wins, allegedly because he couldn’t take an over-the-top rope bump, so Sgt Slaughter beats him up afterwards to rebalance the face/heel divide.  All nonsense, but great fun

    WrestleMania X-7: The Undertaker Vs Triple H

    AKA their forgotten WM match.  Just so we’re clear that the heel who according to himself should be in the main event is a real star he gets a live Motorhead performance for his entrance.  I’m not knocking HHH here, but it’s a lot easier to get over and stay over when little things like that happen for you. 

    As befitting the build-up the two forgo any lock up’s etc and just go straight into a fistfight.  It’s back and forth until Tripper goes for the sledgehammer.  Mike Chioda stops him which allows Taker to hit a chokeslam.  HHH kicks out and in a fury, the Undertaker takes out the referee.  Chioda then spends the next two hours out cold as no-one bothers to come to his aid.  The wrestlers take a detour into the crowd and end up on a tower section and lo and behold it ends with Taker chokeslamming HHH off it and then a flying elbow.  Of course, it’s only that section that ends there because the match can only end in the ring.  Not at all because not even that can finish off the great HHH. 

    They make it back to the ring where Chioda is still dead.  Taker tries to use the Sledgehammer but HHH blocks with a low blow.  He then does manage to smash Taker in the head with it but only for a near fall, maybe because Chioda is still half dead.  Taker is a bloody mess but is able to counter punches in the corner for the Last Ride to take his streak to 9-0. 

    As a trademark, WWE Main Event Brawl goes this is fantastic stuff which even just about gets away with the referee being dead for half of it. 

    WrestleMania X-7: WWF CHAMPIONSHIP
    No Disqualification Match
    The Rock Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin

    Has there ever been a bigger match in all of professional wrestling? There are of course arguments that there have been.  But this is two of the biggest stars of all time at virtually their commercial and artistic peak going head to head in the main event of the biggest show of the year.  There’s no definitive answer (and you have to acknowledge the some subsequent Mania’s did better buy-rates – just – than this) but I’d argue this was the perfect storm in that respect.

    Of course in some quarters the match is NOT all that fondly remembered.  Then, spoiler alert, Austin heel turn that won him the match is regarded by many now as the wrong move. Even Austin himself seems to have hindsight booking and agree it was a mistake.   But really, at the time, what else could be done?  At the very least it was an attempt to do something fresh, which is exactly the sort of thing some people claim the WWE doesn’t do anymore. 

    The match itself though is very, very good.  The two really go at it and the storyline of each man NEEDING the win needs no suspension of disbelief here.  The pre-match announcement/decision that this is no DQ in retrospect suggests shenanigans and when Vince McMahon makes his way to ringside that’s what we’re in store for.  There is actually a big pop when he stops Rock pinning Austin, though this turns 180 degrees when it becomes clear that Austin and McMahon are actually in cahoots.  Vince provides Austin with the chair that he uses to absolute wallop Rock with, nonstop, before claiming the win.  Regardless of your thoughts on the heel turn, this is a fantastic match played out in front of a white-hot crowd. 

    So, is WrestleMania X7 as good as the legend has it?  For the most part, yes.  Whilst I personally think a couple of examples have perhaps had better matches as a whole, there may not have been a WrestleMania to date that has quite had the mix of great-to-good matches (of all descriptions) and the absolutely epic, white-hot atmosphere that this one had.  You’ve got classic WWE main event action, arguably the best TLC style match in the company’s history, perhaps the zenith of the McMahon soap opera storyline, a fantastic brawl between HHH and Taker, arguably the best Hardcore match the division ever gave us, great technical wrestling from Benoit & Angle and even a few minutes of riotously OTT nostalgia in the gimmick battle royale.  Nothing is ever dull and nothing ever outstays its welcome.  And it all mostly still stands up today. 

    If you’ve seen it before it’s well worth a watch. If you haven’t it’s a must-see.