Thursday, 10 June 2021

PPV REVIEW: WWF Wrestlemania X8

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 18 - Event poster
March 17, 2002
Toronto SkyDome, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The event poster for Wrestlemania 18 declares the event to be "The Best Ever." 

Or maybe that hyperbolic tag line simply refers to the Icon vs. Icon match between Hulk Hogan and The Rock. 

If it's the former, then it's perhaps fair to say that this was one event that didn't necessarily live up to the hype. 

As we'll discuss later in this Wrestlemania X8 review, the event was good, but rarely comes up in conversations regarding the greatest 'Mania of all time. 

If it's the latter, then it may also be fair to say that the poster has a good point.

Nigh on 20 years later, Rock vs. Hogan remains an iconic match that is still talked about and revered to this day. 

Was it an all-time classic technical masterpiece? No, of course, but then...well..why don't we quit this intro right here and dive into the review?







Make Me a Superstar 

We began tonight’s show with a cold open, going straight to a live performance by Saliva of the Wrestlemania theme, Superstar.


I won’t lie, I do enjoy some of Saliva’s songs. Though they might have been lumped into the whole nu-metal thing, they do have a good energy about them that still gets my blood pumping but sadly most of that energy was completely lost in the vast space of the Toronto Skydome.

Though I’m sure they performed the best they could (all with shots of tonight’s superstars playing out on a screen behind them), the atmosphere just wasn’t there for this one.

When the band had finished playing, we got the usual Wrestlemania opening video emphasizing the historic nature of the event.

As we got shots of classic moments like the Shawn Michaels zip line entrance from Wrestlemania 12, Ultimate Warrior charging to the ring at Wrestlemania 6, and Hulk Hogan body slamming 8,000 lbs Andre The Giant in front of 35 million people at Wrestlemania 3, the likes of Undertaker, Ric Flair, and Hogan himself all told us that this was an event at least on par with -if not superior to- the Super Bowl.

Crowd shots followed, both live in the arena and back in WWF New York as Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler welcomed us to what he called a ‘global phenomenon.’

Ladies and gentlemen, Wrestlemania X8 was underway.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship 
WWF Intercontinental Champion William Regal vs. Rob Van Dam 

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 18 - William Regal begs off from RVD
Up first, Rob Van Dam made his Wrestlemania debut in a decent effort against defending Intercontinental Champion William Regal.

There’s a part of me that feels bad that RVD was one of the most popular stars during the Invasion yet had been swiftly bumped back down to the midcard rather than being given a more prominent role, and yet another part of me that’s just glad we got to see The Whole F’N Show do his thing on the big stage.

Of course, it helped that he had a credible opponent here.

Regal was as good as he always was and together the two opened the show not with a scorcher exactly, but with a fun little match which served its purpose well.

In the end, Regal went to use his patented brass knuckles on the challenger only for referee Brian Hebner to wrest them from him.

The distraction allowed Van Dam to deck his opponent and polish him off with the Five Star Frog Splash.
Your Winner and new Intercontinental Champion: Rob Van Dam

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 18 - Christian makes fun of Diamond Dallas Page
Backstage, we were taken back to Raw, where Diamond Dallas Page had helped Christian beat Billy Gunn, only for the former tag team champion to turn on DDP.

That set us up with a match for tonight, but only after Christian got done bragging to Lillian Garcia about using Page to get back on winning form and then dumping him.

Ensuring he’d get a heel reaction tonight, Christian also bragged about ditching Toronto and moving to Florida as soon as he could.

World Wrestling Federation European Championship 
WWF European Champion Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian

You have to admire Diamond Dallas Page. He first appeared at a Wrestlemania in this very arena driving Rhythm & Blues to the ring in his pink Cadillac. 
 
Years later, the ever-positive performer had gone from chauffeur to champion and was now defending a title on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

As a side note, I always wonder why the story WWE pushes is that Page drove Honky Tonk Man to the ring when it was Honky and Greg Valentine.

Anyway, for his part, Christian had Howard Finkel introduce him as ‘now hailing from Tampa, Florida’ to further raise the ire of his hometown audience.

The match itself was OK. Not great, sure, and certainly not a Wrestlemania classic by any stretch, but certainly the kind of thing you’d enjoy watching to kill time on Raw, with a couple of close near falls making for a pretty exciting finish.

Speaking of which, Page blasted his challenger with the Diamond Cutter to retain the title.
Your Winner and Still European Champion: Diamond Dallas Page

Post-match, DDP congratulated Christian on not losing his temper in front of 67,000 people and the ‘gazillions’ watching at home. 

Naturally, that spurrred the Canadian on to have a temper tantrum of epic proportions.

Page then left through the crowd to bask in their adulation.

Finally, The Rock Has Come Back... To Toronto!  

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 -  The Rock makes Coach say his prayers
Backstage, The Rock was on fine form as he told Jonathan Coachman that he couldn’t wait for Hulkamania to run wild on him.

Turning his attention to Coach, Rock asked the interviewer whether he’d taken vitamins and said his prayers then lambasted him for not checking in with The Almighty.

Shocked by Coach’s lack of prayers, Rock forced him onto his knees to pray and was even more flabbergasted when Coach's prayer started with the words “What up, G?

Kicking Coach aside, Rock returned his attentions to Hogan and built up tonight’s match like only The Great One could.

The Coachman stuff was incredibly funny, the rest of the promo was just incredible.

World Wrestling Federation Hardcore Championship 
WWF Hardcore Champion Maven vs. Goldust

This wasn’t much of a match.

Sure, it started off well enough with your usual trash can shots (trash cans painted gold, obviously) and mindless brawling. 

Then, about two minutes in, both men nailed each other with trash can lids. Seizing the opportunity, Spike Dudley ran down and pinned Maven to become the new champion and that was that.
Your Winner and New Hardcore Champion: Spike Dudley

A second later, Crash Holly came running down and he and Goldust both chased the new champion off through the crowd.

It was all over in about three minutes.

Story Time With Drowning Pool

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 -  Drowning Pool performed
Up next, we were informed that ‘red hot rock band’ Drowning Pool were going to tell us the story of the rivalry between Chris Jericho and Triple H.

Of course, they didn’t tell us why such story. Instead, they played their song Tear Away while clips of The Game, The Undisputed Champion, and Stephanie McMahon played out on the screen behind him.

Again, this was a decent song and a decent performance, but it was simply lost in the vastness of the Skydome.

It was such an ill-placed idea that when singer Dave Williams implored the crowd to scream, he was met by what sounded like total silence.

Of course, the sad thing here is that Williams would pass away due to heart failure just five months after this event.

The Hurricane is Your New Hardcore Champion

On a brighter note, we next went backstage where Spike Dudley and Crash Holly continued to brawl over the Hardcore title.

Al Snow put in a cameo, driving a golf truck with Teddy Long as a passenger and ploughing it straight into a stack of cardboard boxes in a pretty funny moment.

Spike managed to escape, but seconds later was KO’d by The Hurricane who made the pin and became the new champion.

Kurt Angle vs. Kane

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 -  Kane vs. Kurt Angle
Before the bell, Kurt Angle took to the microphone to get some heat by ragging on the Canadian Figure Skating couple of Jamie SalĂ© and David Pelletier after the two had been involved in a scandal at that year’s Winter Olympics.

He then went on to face Kane in a match that was decent but very unremarkable.

OK, so Kane was a spectacle and a competent performer, but this felt like a waste of someone with Angle’s talent and star power and felt very much like it had been thrown together just to ensure the two would have a ‘Mania match.

The actual action was OK, but I doubt this was a match anyone other than those involved really cared about.
Your Winner: Kurt Angle 

Out in the back, Hurricane ran away to avoid anyone fighting him for the hardcore title.

Unfortunately for the World Wrestling Federation’s resident super hero, he ran straight into the women’s changing room and had to hide behind a screen when The Godfather’s hos came in.

When one such lady of the night removed her top, Hurricane raised a broom which made his silhouette look like he had a huge, odd-shaped erection.

At that point, The Godfather himself showed up and chased off The Hurricane.

This was nowhere near as funny as it was meant to be.

‘Taker Wants Flair...’Taker Gets Flair

Up next, we were shown a video that highlighted the rivalry between The Undertaker and Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Flair had interfered in ‘Taker’s match back at No Way Out 2002, prompting The Phenom to challenge him to a match.

When the WWF co-owner had refused a match, ‘Taker had beaten up Arn Anderson and David Flair to get Nature Boy to finally step in the ring.

As a result, Nature Boy had temporarily relinquished all authority, leading to Vince McMahon making the match a No DQ.

No Disqualification 
The Undertaker vs. Nature Boy Ric Flair 

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 - The Undertaker went 10-0 against Ric Flair
Competing in his first ‘Mania match since Wrestlemania 8, The Nature Boy went at it with The Dead Man in a wild, bloody, and brilliant brawl.

Two thirds of the match saw Undertaker battering Flair from pillar to post and backing again, busting his opponent up and prompting JR to pay tribute to Gordon Sollie by referencing the proverbial crimson mask.

In the last third, Flair made a valiant comeback and even managed to get his nemesis into the Figure Four, only for ‘Taker to slap a hand around Naitch’s throat and muscle out.

Moments later, Arn Anderson put in a cameo with a crowd-popping spine buster but even that wasn’t enough to lay The Dead Man to rest.

‘Taker battled back, hit Flair with the Tombstone piledriver and went 10-0 at Wrestlemania.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Post match, ‘Taker took out Little Naitch Charles Robinson too.

Booker T Went to a Highly Educated University 

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 - Michael Cole interviews Booker T
Out in the back, Michael Cole reminded Booker T that Edge had not only taken an endorsement deal that Booker believed was his, but had also questioned the former Harlem Heat member’s intellect.

I’m a highly intelligent man. I got glasses don’t I?,” scoffed the five time, five time, five time WCW champion with a seriousness that was pretty funny.

Proving just how smart he was, Booker boasted about how good he’d done on his thesis about Einstein’s theory of relatives.

Now can you dig that, sucka?

Booker T vs. Edge 

Much was made of Edge being in the crowd back at Wrestlemania 6 and this being his big homecoming, so it’s a shame that the actual match was fairly disappointing.

That’s not to say that they didn’t try. Both men worked hard and even did something different by making this the first match on the show that didn’t start with one wrestler attacking the other before the bell.

It was fine, and even had a hot little finish in which Edge did his own Edge-a-Roonie and went through a series of reversals before hitting the Edgecution for the win, but it also felt very flat.
Your Winner: Edge 

Backstage, Mighty Molly betrayed Hurricane by knocking him out with a frying pan to become the third hardcore champion of the evening.

That was followed by a video for the upcoming Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall match.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall (w/ Kevin Nash)

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 18 -  Kevin Nash accompanies Scott Hall for his match with Steve Austin
This would be the first time since Wrestlemania 13 that Austin had appeared on a Wrestlemania card but wasn’t in the main event.

Meanwhile, this was Scott Hall’s first Wrestlemania match since he defeated Jeff Jarrett Wrestlemania 11.

The match was fun for what it was.

Going back to the same formula as almost every match on the card, Austin attacked before the bell because you know, why bother doing anything different.

From there, things descended into what was pretty much a handicap match, with Kevin Nash continually running interference until a gaggle of referees made him leave.

Nash’s appearance, though it made complete sense, seemed out of place. He wore his full wrestling attire and made the whole thing look like when you’re playing a wrestling video game and choose your own manager.

That left us open to some more brawling until Austin hit the stunner and Hall flew a good five feet in the air.

It was a glorious end to a match that had been entertaining without being exceptional.

Indeed, while this was a far cry from Austin’s usual main event level match, it was still good for what it was.
Your Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin 

Post match, Austin had himself a beer bash as if to get over the fact that his ‘Mania match mattered so little this year.

Welcome to Axxess

Up next, we were shown highlights from the WWF Axxess event.

The weirdest part was that the thought crossed somebody’s mind that what the event needed was a statue of Stacy Kiebler’s legs and ass that fans could touch and have their photo taken with.

The best part, however, was Booker T being mad about not being included in a video game that was released before he joined the company and then choosing to play as Krispin Wah and delighting in whooping some little kid’s butt.

Get the Tables!

Hey, you know what this Wrestlemania really needs?

More nu-metal!

As we got ready for the four team title match, Saliva came out to sing The Dudley Boyz theme from Forceable Entry while Stacy danced with the singer and Bubba Ray and D’Von rocked out.

It was a decent performance and all, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the idea of a band singing a really angry song about a piece of furniture.

World Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship Four-Team Elimination Match
WWF Tag Team Champions Billy & Chuck vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley w/ Stacy Kiebler) vs. The APA (Farooq & Bradshaw) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff Hardy)

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 18 -  Stacy Keibler dances with Saliva
Billy
& Chuck had been enjoying a sizeable push as of late which sort of took the element of unpredictability out of what was otherwise a decent tag team match.

Farooq and Bradshaw got eliminated early on as they almost always did in these situations, and from there the match started to get better the longer it went on.

Things really hit a climax when Billy Gunn pushed D’Von off the top rope through a table. In the ring, Matt and Jeff Hardy took out Bubba Ray with a Twist of Fate/Swanton Bomb combo.

That led us to a fun -if short- announcers change between the reigning champions and their remaining challengers, culminating in Billy clocking Jeff with a title belt so that Chuck Palumbo could cover him for the predictable three count.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: Billy & Chuck

Post-match, the champions stood over Stacy Kiebler as she checked on a destroyed D’Von Dudley.

Hogan Needs to Face The Rock on His Own

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 -  Hulk Hogan tells Hall and Nash to stay out of his match
Backstage, Hall complained to Nash that his loss to Austin had been a fluke. Nash agreed and promised that the two of them would take out The Rock when The Great One faced Hulk Hogan next.

As if on cue, Hollywood himself then turned up and insisted that he had to face The Rock on his own and beat him up in exactly the same way that he had beaten up Rocky Balboa in Rocky 3.

The Outsiders agreed, but when Hogan left, Nash insisted that he and Hall would still make their presence felt.

Elsewhere in the building, Christian slammed a door in Molly Holly’s face and became our new Hardcore Champion.

Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania X8 - The Rock and Hulk Hogan face off
Given that I’d stopped watching wrestling altogether back in 2002, I’d never actually seen this match until now.

Of course, I’ve read about it hundreds of times, but even that couldn’t stop this long-time fan from getting chills as Hogan and Austin came nose to nose in the center of the ring.

The crowds were firmly behind Hulk, and that seemed at first to not only surprise Hulk Hogan the wrestler but also to genuinely delight Terry Bollea the man.

The actual in-ring action may not have been a technical masterpiece but was an absolute joy to watch because of the insane ovation that Rock and Hogan receive for every single move.

After an incredible performance that was more about the experience than moves, The Great One pinned the Immortal One but only after three Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow.
Your Winner: The Rock. 

Afterwards, a gracious Hogan shook The Rock’s hand, but this brought out Hall & Nash. 

The duo attacked their former leader, only for Rock to turn to ring and aid his one-time nemesis in seeing off The Outsiders.

Bringing this segment to a close, Rock urged Hogan to do his famous post-match pose down routine. The Hulkster obliged, and this fan sat watching the whole thing with the kind of beaming smile the Cheshire Cat would be proud of.

I watch a lot of wrestling to keep this blog going week after week, but moments like Hogan vs. Rock at Wrestlemania 18 remind me why I love it.

Setting Records

After a brief clip of The Big Show hoisting some young fan onto his arm over at WWF New York, Howard Finkel told us that Wrestlemania X8 had set a new Toronto Skydome record of 68,237.

Nice.

World Wrestling Federation Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match
WWF Women’s Champion Jazz vs. Lita vs. Trish Stratus 

Jazz may have been the champion, but she was easily the least over of the three women in this short women’s championship match, especially when Trish Stratus came out doing a whole Canadian Patriot deal.

So it was a surprise to see her retain her title after a few minutes of solid but forgettable action.
Your Winner and Still Women’s Champion: Jazz

Out in the parking lot, Maven caught Christian with the same roll-up that would later prove to be the only move anyone fighting for the 24/7 championship would be capable of doing.

He got the three count and escaped with the same title he had started the night with.

Undisputed Championship 
Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho (w/ Stephanie McMahon) vs. Triple H

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 18 - Chris Jericho & Stephanie McMahon
HHH came down to Drowning Pool playing their version of his theme music from Forceable Entry.

It wasn’t the greatest song in the world, but at least Dave Williams remembered the lyrics much better than Lemmy had the year before at Wrestlemania 17.

The actual match was much better then I’ve seen people give it credit for, but I absolutely get that trying to stay invested in this one after a long three-plus hour show was not easy task.

The story was basically Jericho going after The Game’s leg and Hunter continually fighting back until landing the Pedigree for the predictable ending.

As obvious as the outcome might have been, most of the actual action here was solid.
Your Winner and new Undisputed Champion: Triple H

Post-match, the new champion posed with his titles before we cut to an excellent video package recapping all of the highlights from the 18th edition of Wrestlemania.









Wrestlemania X8 is never going to go down as one of the greatest ‘Manias of all time.

Most of the action never got past being “decent” and the show suffered from a weird booking trend in which eight out of the 11 matches on the card started in exactly the same way:

With the first person to make their entrance attacking their opponent prior to the bell.

Still, that aside, there were a few stand out moments.

The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair was a good match and Rock vs. Hogan was on a whole different level.

Much like Hogan’s last ‘Mania match in the same venue, this wasn’t so much about pure wrestling moves, it was about the spectacle, the crowd participation and the overall joy of seeing two larger than life characters collide.

Though Hogan technically lost, he was undeniably the star of the match. So,  it was entirely fitting that a man who’s name had long been synonymous with the World Wrestling Federation, and whose stardom was largely responsible for Wrestlemania’s early success, should be the same man to take the spotlight in the last Wrestlemania before the WWF became WWE.



1 comments:

Hogan vs Rock should have closed the show.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.