In the build-up to WrestleMania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous installments of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’.
WWF Hardcore Title Match: Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly vs. ‘Badd Ass’ Billy Gunn (Triple Threat Hardcore Match)
WWF Tag Title Match: D’Lo Brown & Test w/Ivory vs. Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart w/Debra
Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean (Brawl For All Match)
The Big Show vs. Mankind (Win by DQ)
IC Title Match: Road Dogg vs. Val Venis vs. Goldust vs. Ken Shamrock (Fatal 4-Way)
Triple H vs. Kane
WWF Women’s Title Match: Tori vs. Sable
European Title Match: Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac
Big Boss Man vs. The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer (Hell in a Cell Match)
WWF Title Match: The Rock vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
The Attitude Era was the most successful period that professional wrestling has ever seen. What some tend to forget is how incredibly hit-and-miss it was. Unfortunately for us, WrestleMania XV had far more ‘misses’ than ‘hits’. The two worst matches on this card though, are as bizarre as they are nonsensical.
First of all, you’ve have the uncomfortable climax of the ill-judged ‘Brawl for All’ Tournament. Unbelievably, the then-writers thought it would be a good idea for a bunch of their wrestlers (dripping with ego and testosterone) to compete in a boxing tournament FOR REAL. The competitors would legitimately fight for bragging rights and $100,000 bonus.
Supposedly, the whole thing was meant to be a launching pad for the career of ‘Doctor Death’ Steve Williams, but Bart Gunn had other ideas. Gunn KO’d Williams in their second round match and proceeded to win the tournament. Gunn’s reward (read: punishment) came at WrestleMania, where he would have one last ‘shoot’ boxing match against a professional heavyweight boxer: Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch.
Gunn was knocked out in just 36 seconds. It was an absolute slaughter.
Over too quickly to generate any form of entertainment, this was a farce from start to finish. Bart Gunn’s career was effectively buried (he would leave the company shortly after this), and the whole thing still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. There is a good reason why the ‘Brawl for All’ was never repeated, or even mentioned again by WWE.
Another huge disappointment was WrestleMania XV’s ‘Streak Match’, as The Undertaker took on Big Boss Man. In what is widely regarded as the worst Hell in a Cell match ever (yes, worse than the Kennel from Hell), the 10-minute bout effectively sucked the entire atmosphere out of the arena.
The two men barely left the ring and made very little use of the cell that surrounded them; a huge waste of the legendary gimmick. Unfortunately, it’s not even as if they were doing anything significant inside the ring either. The sluggish action was something that would have looked below-par on an episode of Sunday Night Heat, let alone the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’.
Just when you think the nightmare is over, the creative team force-feed us one of the most baffling post-match scenes in WrestleMania history. After ‘Taker’s victory, The Brood descend from the rafters of the arena, climbing in the top of the cell. They tie a Hangman’s Noose (!) around Boss Man’s neck, before Undertaker (using his supernatural powers) lifts the entire cell, HANGING his opponent in the process.
It’s just about the most ludicrous creative decision the writers have ever made at WrestleMania… and that includes putting The Miz in a main event.
On a sub-standard ‘Mania card, there is but one match worth tuning in for: the iconic main event between The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.
The two most popular stars of the era (and perhaps beyond) finally did battle on the ultimate stage, with the WWF Championship on the line. The Rock was the arrogant but charismatic heel, and the perfect foil for Austin’s badass rule-breaker. The feud was white-hot heading into this show, and their match did not disappoint.
As per usual, the two men left everything in the ring, with high-tempo, back-and-forth action from bell to bell. The supporting players only added to the drama, with Mankind filling in as Special Guest Referee, while an anxious Vince McMahon looked on from ringside.
The battle reached its explosive climax and it was ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ that was left holding the gold (just as he was the year before). Post-match, Austin dealt McMahon a Stone Cold Stunner for good measure, sending the crowd into hysteria.
Opinions tend to differ on this one, but for me this is probably the weakest of the Austin/Rock WrestleMania trilogy, but that is by no means a derogatory statement. All three matches were undeniable classics, including this night-saving clash.
The main event just about saves this one from the depths of mediocrity.
As was often the case with a Vince Russo-led product, the matches and in-ring action took a back seat to the storylines that engulfed them. Sadly, not all those stories were worth telling. If you subtract the final match and move the show to a smaller venue, you could easily mistake this event as an overly-long episode of Monday Night Raw. That is something you shouldn’t be able to say about a WrestleMania.
Jackson Ball – Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn