In the build-up to WrestleMania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous installments of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’…
United States Title Match: John Cena vs. The Big Show
World Tag Title Match: Booker T & Rob Van Dam vs. Garrison Cade & Mark Jindrak vs. The Dudley Boy vs. La Résistance (Fatal 4-Way Tag Match)
Christian w/Trish Stratus vs. Chris Jericho
Ric Flai, Batista & Randy Orton vs. The Rock & Mick Foley (Handicap)
Torrie Wilson & Sable vs. Stacy Keibler & Miss Jackie (Playboy Evening Gown Match)
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match: Chavo Guerrero vs. Ultimo Dragon vs. Shannon Moore vs. Jamie Noble vs. Funaki vs. Nunzio vs. Billy Kidman vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Tajiri vs. Akio (Cruiserweight Open)
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg (Special Guest Referee: ‘Stone cold’ Steve Austin)
WWE Tag Title Match: The World’s Greatest Tag Team vs. The Basham Brothers vs. The APA vs. Too Cool (Fatal 4-Way Tag Match)
WWE Women’s Title Match: Victoria vs. Molly Holly
WWE Title Match: Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero
The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer vs. Kane
World Heavyweight Title Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (Triple Threat)
Fans of the current WWE product will have no doubt heard the story of how thi9s WrestleMania impacted a young Sasha Banks. The former NXT Women’s Champion saw the event and was immediately influenced to become a professional wrestler. She singles out Eddie Guerrero in particular as her true inspiration, and after watching this event… it’s easy to see why she wasn’t influenced by the female ‘wrestlers’ on the roster.
Everyone remembers the Attitude Era as the most misogynistic period in WWE history, but it’s easy to forget that the period immediately following it was just as bad for the degradation of women. The ‘Playboy Evening Gown Match’ lasted a little over 3 minutes, but that was plenty of time to bruise the already poor reputation of women’s wrestling (very little wrestling actually took place).
Another low-point came during the match between Goldberg and brock Lesnar. There’s no doubt that the WWE would have been hoping for this to be a huge marquee match for this card; Lesnar had headlined the event the year before, while Goldberg had enjoyed a red-hot run over the past 12 months. This was billed as a ‘clash of the titans’ match-up and the addition of Stone Cold ’Steve Austin only served
Unfortunately, circumstances transpired leading up to the match that completely turned the WWE fan-base off the bout. It quickly became apparent, through various insider interviews and ‘dirt sheets’, that both Lesnar and Goldberg would be leaving the WWE after WrestleMania XX. It was claimed that both men had ‘had enough’ of the professional wrestling lifestyle, something that the fans didn’t take kindly to.
The New York crowd descended on the match from the very beginning. Both men received negative reactions on the way to the ring, with Austin being the only saving grace for the capacity crowd. The audience sabotaged the match in a way that only wrestling fans can; loudly express their disdain for both the competitors and the match in front of them.
Whether it was the impact of the crowd, or the fact that both competitors had grown tired of wrestling, but the match was a pretty boring affair.
There are no two ways about it: this night belonged to Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit.
First up was Guerrero, as ‘Latino Heat’ defended his WWE Championship against Kurt Angle. Against all odds, Guerrero won the title a month previous at No Way Out, sneaking a shock victory against Brock Lesnar. Going into WrestleMania, Eddie was once again (inexplicably) cast as the underdog, going-up against an extremely dominant Angle.
The match told a fantastic story, as Guerrero did everything he could to survive against his opponent. Time and time again, Angle looked to seal the win by locking on the Ankle Lock, but Eddie was able to evade each and every time.
The Olympian’s signature submission would come into play at the matches climax, in one of the most innovative match finishes in ‘Mania history. After a gruelling match, Angle was finally able to lock onto his opponents ankle and it the end looked nigh. With the crowd willing him to survive, Guerrero managed to somehow escape the Ankle Lock, but the damaged appeared to have been done. Eddie was in agony, having to untie the laces on his boot to gain some sort of relief on his (possibly broken) ankle.
Angle smelt blood in the water, and ruthlessly went in for the submission again. With his boot now loosened, Guerrero was able to slip off his boot and escape the move, before rolling-up Angle in one, swift motion. Eddie had done it; using his wiles to ‘steal’ a championship victory on the biggest stage of them all. Needless to say, the crowd came unglued.
Guerrero would appear again the very end of the show, to congratulate and embrace his good friend Chris Benoit, after he celebrated a championship victory of his own.
Like Eddie, Benoit had spent years of working his way up the mid-card, before winning the 2004 Royal Rumble. Benoit immediately made his WrestleMania intentions clear, challenging Triple H for his World Heavyweight Championship. As it happened, ‘The Game’ was already embroiled in a deeply personal feud with his former best friend Shawn Michaels, who, at No Way Out, was able to also earn his way into the ‘Mania match.
The match remains the best multi-man main event in ‘Mania history.
The ‘Triple Threat Match’ had everything, including HBK plummeting through the announce table on to Triple H. At several points throughout the battle, it looked legitimately possible that any of the three competitors involved could be leaving with the gold. Ultimately though, the correct decision was made and Benoit won with a classic submission victory.
WrestleMania XX is memorable for a vast variety of reasons.
It was the ‘Mania debut for a young John Cena; the man who would go on to dominate the top of the card for the next decade. It also marked the return of The Undertaker to his classic ‘Deadman’ persona. Seeing ‘Taker enter Madison Square Garden, flanked by demonic druids and with Paul Bearer back at his side, was a goosebump-inducing moment that is hard to forget.
Above all else though, it’s the lasting image of Benoit and Guerrero tearfully embracing in the ring that stays with fans. Both men had finally ascended to the pinnacle of their profession, despite years of being told they simply couldn’t. It is one of, if not the best feel-good WrestleMania finales we’ve ever seen, now give a tragic tint by the knowledge of what would happen to both men in the following years.
Jackson Ball – Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn