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WWE WRESTLEMANIA COUNTDOWN - 2004 PPV Report (WM 20): Benoit vs. Hunter vs. HBK, Guerrero vs. Angle, Goldberg vs. Lesnar with Austin

Mar 23, 2010 - 12:00:16 PM
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Leading up to WrestleMania 26 on March 28 in Arizona, we will be publishing a daily WrestleMania PPV flashback report going back to 1992 at WrestleMania 8. We'll be publishing one PPV flashback report around 12:00 p.m. CST every afternoon until this year's WrestleMania.

-- Thursday, Mar. 11 - WrestleMania 8 (1992): Hogan vs. Sid, Warrior run-in
-- Friday, Mar. 12 - WrestleMania 9 (1993): Hart vs. Yokozuna, Hogan wins title
-- Saturday, Mar. 13 - WrestleMania 10 (1994): Razor vs. HBK, Bret vs. Owen
-- Sunday, Mar. 14 - WrestleMania 11 (1995): LT vs. Bigelow, Diesel vs. HBK
-- Monday, Mar. 15 - WrestleMania 12 (1996): HBK-Hart Iron Man match
-- Tuesday, Mar. 16 - WrestleMania 13 (1997): Hart vs. Austin, Sid vs. Taker
-- Wednesday, Mar. 17 - WrestleMania 14 (1998): Austin vs. HBK, Taker vs. Kane
-- Thursday, Mar. 18 - WrestleMania 15 (1999): Rock vs. Austin I
-- Friday, Mar. 19 - WrestleMania 16 (2000): Rock vs. Foley vs. Hunter vs. Show
-- Saturday, Mar. 20 - WrestleMania 17 (2001): Rock vs. Austin, TLC, Shane vs. Vince
-- Sunday, Mar. 21 - WrestleMania 18 (2002): Rock vs. Hogan, Hunter vs. Jericho
-- Monday, Mar. 22 - WrestleMania 19 (2003): Rock vs. Austin III, Hogan vs. McMahon
-- Tuesday, Mar. 23 - WrestleMania 20 (2004): Benoit-Hunter-HBK, Goldberg-Lesnar -- Wednesday, Mar. 24 - WrestleMania 21 (2005):
-- Thursday, Mar. 25 - WrestleMania 22 (2006):
-- Friday, Mar. 26 - WrestleMania 23 (2007):
-- Saturday, Mar. 27 - WrestleMania 24 (2008):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 25 (2009):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 26 Live Coverage

***

WM20_1.jpg
WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 20 (2004)
March 14, 2004
New York City at Madison Square Garden
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor


-- Find out how to sign up for a Torch VIP membership to access the Torch Staff Audio Roundtable Review of WrestleManias 1-10 right now!

WM20_1.jpg
WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 20 (2004)
March 14, 2004
New York City at Madison Square Garden
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor


-- TORCH VIP MEMBERS: Access the WM1-10 Torch Audio Roundtable in our special WrestleMania Section.

TORCH NEWSLETTER COVER STORY

WrestleMania 20 may be seen as the tale of two wrestlers - Chris Benoit and Brock Lesnar. Certainly the two of them were involved in the two most memorable segments of the event. The New York Madison Square Garden crowd booed Lesnar out of the ring and sang the "Na na na na, hey hey hey hey, good bye" chant throughout the match. Later, the crowd erupted with joy when Benoit won his first World Title, forcing perennial champ Triple H to tap out.

Benoit embodies everything that wrestlers respect about each other. He paid his dues beginning in Stu Hart's dungeon. He travelled the world looking for work when the U.S. wrestling scene saw him as too small and too bland to be worth a big contract. He eventually caught on with ECW, then WCW signed him away, and eventually during the Monday Night War, the WWF snatched a disgruntled Benoit away from WCW. Benoit hung around WWE and slowly gained the respect of WWE fans across the country who had been conditioned to appreciate charisma, size, and brashness. Benoit was none of those. Yet fans saw that he was the "real deal."

Benoit always had good matches. He always seemed to care as much about pro wrestling as the most passionate of fans, something not always apparent in all wrestlers. They identified with him as deserving underdog. Eventually, Vince McMahon saw the opportunity to fulfill fans' desire to see Benoit finally "win the big one." The drama at the end of the WrestleMania 20 main event, as Benoit appeared to be on the verge of winning the title, was among the more dramatic PPV moments ever. When he won, it was among the most genuine outpourings of relief and excitement from a live crowd ever.

As Benoit had earned fans' respect in recent years, so did Brock Lesnar. He joined the main WWE roster about two years ago. He was quickly marketed as "the next big thing." Fans, though, initially saw him as a big monster getting a push before his time. He was given a Bill Goldberg-like winning streak. But he was green, and fans could see it. As the months rolled on, though, Lesnar began improving - rapidly. He benefited from having some excellent opponents, most notably the prodigy Kurt Angle. Over the past year he became one of the most respected wrestlers among even the most discerning WWE fans. He "got it." In the ring and behind the mic, he seemed to have quickly surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations in a short time. He earned his place.

He was beginning to enter similar territory as Benoit when it came to earning the respect of the fans. Then news circulated beginning in the final few days before WrestleMania that Brock was quitting. Nobody foresaw exactly how quickly the news spread, though. It wasn't until Brock stepped into the ring at MSG that it became apparent that the news that made headlines on wrestling websites and sidebar stories on some mainstream sports websites had become common knowledge among the WM20 goers. The crowd overwhelmingly let Lesnar know how they felt about his decision to walk out on them just as they had begun to fully accept and embrace him as a top star deserving of his slot.

Rock was booed when he returned to face Hulk Hogan two years ago at WrestleMania 19. As shocking as the crowd reaction was then, this crowd reaction was more shocking because of how hostile they were. The crowd recognized the lack of dedication of Lesnar to pro wrestling. They weren't crazy about Goldberg, but their rejection of him wasn't as emotional because they hadn't bonded with him in the same way as they had with Lesnar. Goldberg was always portrayed as a "special attraction." Lesnar seemed to be more than that. He seemed to be just hitting his stride on what fans expected would be a long career.

Had the Lesnar situation not occurred, the embracing of Benoit's title quest may not have been as intense. Benoit epitomized the opposite of Lesnar. Benoit wasn't going to do what Rock had done, what Goldberg was about to do, or what Austin had done. The fans felt Benoit represented a wrestler who would never walk out on them. They felt he earned what he was getting more than anyone. Those intense emotions from the New York crowd created a one-two punch of contrasting climaxes that defined how WrestleMania 20 will be remembered. It also may influence who gets pushed for years to come.

KELLER'S MATCH RESULTS & ANALYSIS

The show opened with a boys choir singing "America the Beautiful"... A shot of Vince McMahon aired with a brief narration stating 20 years ago he began a tradition that changed "our world"... A montage then aired of WWE wrestlers talking about the importance of WrestleMania XX. It closed with the narrator saying, "It all begins again... tonight." Then they went to a brief shot of Vince, Shane, and Shane's new baby son smiling together. That's the first appearance of the fourth generation McMahon on TV... Jim Ross introduced the show as fireworks shot off. Jerry Lawler, wearing a nice suit and tie, smiled and told Ross to relax a little. They also introduced the Spanish announce team. Then Michael Cole and Tazz talked about how excited they were to be there. MSG always had that ugly, distracting tunnel right in front of the hard camera. For this event, they blocked it with a videowall featuring the two wrestlers involved in the match in the ring. Nice touch.

(1) John Cena pinned Big Show to capture the U.S. Hvt. Title at 9:13. Cena did a rap that included saying he was going to "beat Big Show like a penis with an STD." Show battered Cena in the opening minutes. The lively crowd chanted "Big Show sucks" in the early minutes as Show methodically beat on Cena. Cena slipped on a sleeper at 5:30, his first offensive move of the match. Show easily backed into the corner of the ring and knocked Cena off of him. Cena hit an FU out of nowhere at 8:00 for a near fall. Cole said Show was the first person to ever kick out of an FU. Cena grabbed his chain. The ref made him give it up, so he threw it into the corner. When the ref retrieved the chain, Cena KO'd Show with his brass knuckles and then hit another FU for the win. Cena had a nice post-match title celebration. Not a bad opener because the crowd was into Cena as a babyface. Not a match anyone will need to watch a second time to catch all the action, but it worked. (*1/2)

Coach walked past Johnny Stamboli and Tom Prichard and said hi to them. Then he saw Teddy Long and hugged him. Then he went into Eric Bischoff's office where Johnny Blaze (or This Week's New Last Name) was chatting with Bischoff. Bischoff asked Coach to go find Undertaker. Coach was nervous.

Randy Orton cut a promo that was interspersed with clips of his feud with Mick Foley. Orton was flanked by Batista and Ric Flair on either side. All were wearing suits, but Orton skipped the tie. Nice promo setting the stage for the match later.

(2) Booker T & Rob Van Dam beat La Resistance and Garrison Cade & Mark Jindrak & The Dudleys at 7:55 to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles. The problem with four-team matches is the format is usually an indication that there isn't a great, over feud between two teams, so they just throw four in there. But because none of the teams or internal feuds are over enough to justify a longer slot of time, but there are so many wrestlers to tag in so they get in their spots, there isn't any true long-term selling or sustained internal storylines. It leads to a match that's more a series of moves and tags that altogether don't end up meaning much. In the end, Conway went one-on-one with Booker. Booker hit a scissors kick. RVD then hit a frog and scored the pin. Okay for what it was. (*3/4)

Coach asked around for where Undertaker was. He heard noises behind a door. Gene Okerlund walked out with lipstick on his forehead. Bobby Heenan came out next and said they were playing poker. He had lipstick all over his face, too, and like Okerlund appeared dishevelled. Mae Young came out and made out with Heenan. Fabulous Moolah came out and began kissing Okerlund. They dragged them back into the room. Solid comedy... Lawler laughed and Ross said it was time to go back to serious business. Then a montage aired recapping Trish Stratus-Chris Jericho-Christian.

(3) Christian beat Chris Jericho at 14:56. They had good intensity early, with Jericho taking nothing from Christian, but instead firing at him with deliberate punches and snap suplexes and hard chops and clotheslines. The action in the ring accurately reflected the emotion in the storyline leading up to it. Christian dominated until Jericho began a full fledged comeback at 7:30 and showed nice fire, getting the crowd into the match. He hit an enzuigiri for a near fall at 8:00. They went into a series of near falls. Jericho went for the springboard Lionsault, but Christian lifted his knees. With both men down on the mat at 13:30, Trish ran to ringside. Christian gave Jericho a DDT for a very near fall as Trish looked on, encouraging Jericho. Christian dragged Trish into the ring. Jericho immediately clotheslined Christian out of the ring. Jericho reached down to help Trish, but Trish seemingly thought it was Christian and she elbowed him. Christian reentered the ring and rolled up Jericho and scored the pin with a handful of tights. A solid fundamental match with good emotional intensity and a nice post-match twist. (***)

After the match Trish asked Jericho for forgiveness. Christian returned to the ring. Jericho was going to go after him, but Trish slapped and punched him in the face. Then Trish slapped Jericho. Christian entered the ring and gave Jericho his finisher. Trish's whole demeanor changed from "sweet" to "mean and slutty" in a matter of seconds. She trash-talked Jericho with a sh--eating grin on her face. Christian grabbed her by the hair and made out with her. "Oh my God!" screamed Lawler. Jericho looked on in shock with a broken heart... Lilian Garcia interviewed The Rock and Mick Foley backstage. Rock stole the show, including telling Lilian not to look at his "package" (i.e. crotch area) because the buffet is closed. He said hello to "Magnificent" Don Muraco, Jimmy Snuka, Hurricane, and Rosey. He said he was "home," although fans are buying that less and less coming from "Mr. Can't Mention WrestleMania On the Tonight Show Three Days Before The PPV"...

(4) Randy Orton & Ric Flair & Batista beat Mick Foley & The Rock when Orton pinned Foley at 17:09. Evolution walked out first. Then a svelte, almost famished looking Foley came out next. Ross wished Foley's one year old Huey a happy birthday. The Rock then came out. It was tough to tell what kind of pops they both got on PPV. A five-way brawl broke out at the start. Rock and Foley cleared the ring. Foley threw an ugly looking punch at Batista, who then bailed out. Flair began against Rock one-on-one. Fans began a "Rocky" chant, but that was replaced quickly by "Whoos" when Flair threw a chop. Rock officially tagged in Foley at 2:30 which got a nice pop. Orton bailed out right away. Foley went after him, ramming him into the Smackdown announcers' table. Later, Orton went after Foley at ringside, but Foley applied the Mandible Claw. Flair attacked Foley and then Orton threw him into the ringside stairs. Foley bumped into and flipped over the stairs. Foley hot-tagged in Rock at 13:50, who got Spinebustered by Batista. He then tagged in Flair, who did a People's Flair Strut which popped the crowd. Rock came back and did his version of the Flair Strut for another big pop. Flair desperately tagged out to Orton. Orton went for a quick RKO, but Rock blocked it and gave Orton a Rock Bottom. When Rock went for the pin, Flair dragged him out of the ring. Flair then grabbed a chair. The ref yanked it away from him. Batista meanwhile sitdown powerbombed Rock in center ring. Orton draped his arm over Rock for a near fall. The crowd pop probably wasn't what they hoped for, but fans knew it wasn't over yet. Rock crawled over to hot-tag Foley at 16:20. Foley double-arm DDT'd Rock. Then he pulled out Mr. Socko. He was going to give it to Orton, but Orton gave Foley an RKO for the three count. Foley sat center ring, saddened by his loss. He seemed stunned. Rock looked upset with the loss, too. When Foley stood, the crowd chanted "Foley, Foley." Rock led the crowd in giving Foley a standing ovation for his return. Rock and Foley hugged. They promptly cut to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony footage. That match was what it needed to be. It wasn't remarkably better than expectations, but it met them all things considered. It had some nice spotlight moments. (***1/4)

They showed clips of the Hall of Fame banquet. Heenan broke down as he talked about wishing Gorilla Monsoon was there, too. He kissed the sky in honor of Monsoon... Then they introduced the Hall of Fame inductees live on the stage (see "WWE Newswire").

(5) Torrie & Sable beat Stacy & Miss Jackie Gayda at 2:41. Sable said she felt restricted, so she stripped off the nightgown. Stacy and Torrie followed suit. Jackie refused. Sable yanked Jackie into the ring and she and Torrie ripped off her gown. Stacy and Torrie went into a series of roll-ups that resulted in their faces in each other's crotches, which led to some drooling in the crowd. Cole and Tazz were the announcers probably because there's no way Lawler could have made it through the match without his head exploding. Torrie and Jackie rolled onto the ref. Tazz called him a lucky SOB. Torrie then rolled up Jackie for the win. That was a healthy dose of T&A without being embarassing in terms of the wrestling. Torrie and Sable gave each other a little peck as they walked to the stage. (1/2*)

They showed clips of fans in the MSG lobby with various accents talking about how far they travelled and how excited they were to be part of WrestleMania. They couldn't have paid and scripted anyone to endorse the WWE product's international appeal better than those fans... Backstage Eddie Guerrero, with the WWE Title over his shoulder, greeted Chris Benoit, who was pacing backstage. Guerrero told him he shouldn't feel pressure because "nobody expects you to win." Benoit screamed, "I believe in me and that's all that matters." Benoit said tonight is his night. Guerrero then smiled and said, "That's what I've been trying to get out of you. That's the Wolverine that I took on in Japan years ago, the Wolverine who is going to tear Triple H apart and walk out with the World Heavyweight Title." Guerrero added, "I believe, Chris!" Very good backstage promo.

(6) Chavo Guerrero won an elimination match against Jamie Noble, Tajiri, Funaki, Nunzio, Ultimo Dragon, Kidman, Akio, Rey Mysterio, and Shannon Moore to retain the Cruiserweight Title at 10:38. The rules were that two wrestlers enter the ring and once a pinfall takes place, another wrestler enters. Chavo Guerrero Jr. automatically got position no. 10, so for all his complaining about having to defend against nine other wrestlers, he actually only has to defend against one wrestler who has already had to fight at least one other wrestler. Chavo Jr. came out first to watch the match, joined by his father Chavo Sr. The rest of the wrestlers came out to truncated ring intros. The pinfalls came in rapid fire succession, with elimination order as follows: Moore, Ultimo, Funaki, Nunzio, Akio, Noble, Kidman, Tajiri, Mysterio. Rey dove onto Chavo Sr. at ringside at 10:00. Chavo Sr. held Chavo Jr.'s arm to help give him leverage to score the pin on Rey. The wrestlers did just fine, but the booking was so ludicrous that it lacked any credibility. Why damage the credibility of the wrestlers and cheapen the meaning of pinfalls just to fit everyone on the PPV for a disrespectful 30 second cameo in the ring? (neg. *)

A video feature aired hyping Lesnar vs. Goldberg.

(7) Bill Goldberg pinned Brock Lesnar at 13:48. Steve Austin drove his ATV to the ring first. Then Lesnar walked out, followed by Goldberg. Ross and Lawler did call this match. Ross called the match a "genuine battle of the bulls." Goldberg yelled at Brock. Brock mockingly yelled back at him. The camera gave us some nice close-ups of each. Brock took it in, and then snapped and yelled at Goldberg, "Let's go!" They had a test of strength in mid-ring. The crowd booed anytime Lesnar showed an advantage. Great heat. Lesnar applied a headlock. Goldberg powered out. They collided mid-ring. The crowd chanted "boring" very loudly. Goldberg smiled. Ross said he's never understood when fans do that. Good for Ross. He's the only announcer who has enough credibility and equity with fans to actually criticize them when they act out that way. The match wasn't bad, it was just building slowly and dramatically. Goldberg pressed and powerslammed Lesnar, which got a pop. Goldberg charged Lesnar, who shifted out of his path. Goldberg went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Lesnar rammed Goldberg into the ringpost. A "Goldberg sucks" chant then began. Lesnar smiled. Back in the ring at 8:00, Lesnar went into a modified chinlock. Ross said Lesnar's control of Goldberg on the mat is an example of his experience in amateur wrestling. Lesnar collided with Goldberg in mid-ring with a clothesline. The crowd booed. Lesnar covered Goldberg for a two count. Goldberg hit a Spear at 12:00 out of nowhere for a two count. Goldberg wasn't happy that Austin ruled it just a two count. They exchanged words. Lesnar then gave Goldberg an F5. Austin counted a near fall. Goldberg kicked out. Ross said Austin counted at the same pace for each pinfall attempt. Lesnar got up and complained. Goldberg hit another Spear at 13:20. He played to the crowd, and the crowd booed him. He didn't seem happy. Goldberg followed with the Jackhammer for the clean pin. Austin clearly wanted nothing to do with the match at all, realizing he wanted to disassociate from two wrestlers who fans completely sh-- all over. Goldberg stood on the ropes to celebrate but didn't really get any pops. Lesnar was slow to rise to his feet. Austin stared him down. "You sold out" chants filled the arena again along with another "Hey hey hey, goodbye" song. Lesnar, who looked like he was about to cry (although that's commonplace with his character) then gave the crowd two middle fingers. Then he turned and gave Austin two middle fingers. Austin gave him a Stunner and two middle fingers. Lesnar rolled out of the ring. Austin tossed Goldberg a beer. Goldberg didn't even try to grab it. The crowd booed. Austin threw Goldberg another beer and he caught it. They drank beer together in the ring, then Austin gave Goldberg the Stunner. That's how you book a post-match angle that gets over Austin and not the two departing wrestlers. When Austin left the ring, another beer was tossed his way. It hit him on the side of the face. He recovered nicely and drove his ATV to the back. It was one of the most memorable WrestleMania matches ever, and the quality of the wrestling wasn't terrible by any means, but the spectacle created from behind the scenes stuff and the crowd reaction completely overshadowed anything in the ring. (*1/2)

They went outside where fireworks went off outside of MSG. It actually looked a bit eerie given the camera angle and the tall building right behind the fireworks.

Vince McMahon stepped out and briefly addressed the crowd, saying he wanted to thank the fans for making WrestleManias 1 through 20 possible. Nice, low key, classy acknowledgement of the fans without making himself the center of attention.

(8) Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty beat The Bashams and Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin and The APA (Faarooq & Bradshaw) at 6:05 to retain the World Tag Team Titles. It was sudden death, meaning first team to score a pinfall or submission wins the tag titles. At 5:00 Benjamin went for a back suplex on Rikishi, but he couldn't budge him. Rikishi kicked him off and then a moment later gave Haas the Stinkface. In the end, Bradshaw then gave Danny the Clothesline from Hell, then Rikishi sat on Danny for the win. Scotty did The Worm. Cole said it was going to bring the crowd to its feet. It didn't, and Cole looked bad for trying to sell it like it would. Scotty and Rikishi did their tired dance to little response. (*)

A promo aired for the returning Edge... Jesse Ventura walked out to the ring next. "What would WrestleMania be without Jesse coming out and doing an interview with somebody," Jesse asked. "Where's my man? Who am I looking for out here to interview. It's the star of the no. 1 rated TV show on NBC, The Apprentice, Donald Trump." Ventura walked to ringside and interviewed him on the front row. "First of all, I've got to say the hair looks great." Ventura asked Trump if he ran for office again if he'd have his moral and financial support. Trump said for sure. Ventura said maybe they need to have a pro wrestler president in office in 2008. He got a half-hearted pop.

(9) Victoria pinned Molly Holly at 4:52 to retain the Women's Title. They aggressively went after each other at the start. Molly hit Victoria with a hard clothesline at ringside. Victoria took a nice bump. In the ring, Molly applied a chinlock, getting the required "new style" mat hold out of the way early. Victoria rolled up Molly at 4:52 for a surprise pin out of nowhere. Ross and Lawler spent the match talking about women's panties and what kind of underwear they prefer. Lots of instances of Ross saying things like "I won't dignify that comment with a response" and "I didn't prepare for a discussion on women's panties." Not much time to become anything special. What there was of it was solid. These two deserved more time and to be taken more seriously. (*)

After the match, a shocked Molly attacked Victoria and tried to shave her head. Victoria fended her off with hairspray. Victoria then strapped Molly into the chair. Victoria shaved her with a clipper so she had a crew cut left. Before they finished, they cut to Tazz and Cole previewing the Guerrero vs. Angle title match. Paul Heyman made his first appearance (on tape) of the entire show in this video montage. Other than the nice Hall of Fame induction ceremony and Vince's brief thank you speech, there was nothing to indicate this was the 20th WrestleMania. Rather than padding the show with flashbacks, they focused almost entirely on current day stars and feuds... They went back to Molly whose head was nearly shaved bald at this point. Not just a crew cut.

(10) Eddie Guerrero pinned Kurt Angle to retain the WWE Title at 21:30. Guerrero drove a bouncy red Cadillac pick-up to the ring. They went into a slow build in the opening minutes. Angle applied a side headlock at 2:00. A fun chant began where half the crowd chanted "Let's Go Angle" and that was immediately followed by the other half chanting "Angle Sucks," leading to a "Let's Go Angle, Angle Sucks, Let's Go Angle, Angle Sucks" chant. At 3:45 Angle rolled out of the ring for a breather after he came out on the short end of a shoulder tackle. After some mat holds by Angle, Guerrero avoided an Angle slidekick. Angle then went for a back suplex off the ring apron, but Guerrero held onto the ropes. Eddie dropkicked Angle as he attempted to re-enter the ring. Angle worked over Guerrero with suplexes and scored some two counts. He grew frustrated with his inability to get a three count. At 13:00 Angle went for a top rope suplex, but Guerrero headbutted out of it and shoved Angle to the mat. Eddie then went for a sudden frog splash, but Angle moved out of the path. Angle finally began throwing punches. Guerrero got fired up and asked for some more. Angle punched him. Guerrero jumped up and asked for more. Guerrero then went on an offensive flurry against Angle to very little crowd heat. Guerrero then gave Angle a back suplex. Angle came back with consecutive suplexes. Guerrero countered into a roll up for a near fall. He followed up with a tilt-a-whirl head scissors. Guerrero then gave Angle his three consecutive vertical suplexes. Late in the match, Angle applied an Anklelock out of nowhere. Guerrero reached for the ropes, but couldn't grasp them. He teased tapping several times, then managed to flip Angle out of the ring. A loud "Eddie, Eddie" chant began. Guerrero untied his boot and grabbed at his ankle in pain. Angle recovered at ringside and entered the ring. He put Guerrero in another Anklelock. Guerrero yanked his leg and the boot came off. Angle was surprised. Guerrero then rolled him up for the three count. Their feet were in the ropes, which may not have been intended, but can be used by Angle as a complaint on TV. Not a classic, but a very good match. It's not everyone's style due to the slow mat-based build early, but it climaxed well and the crowd was into the near falls in the final minutes. The finish was really clever, too. (****1/4)

A video montage aired recapping the Undertaker-Kane.
(11) Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) beat Kane a 6:56. Kane came out first. The cool New York set on the entrance stage appeared to go up in flames as Kane walked out. Then "Ohhh yeahh!" blared through the sound system in the voice of Paul Bearer. Bearer walked out with an urn followed by several druids holding torches. The Undertaker "gong" went off. The crowd popped. Old School Undertaker then walked out to a remix of his old entrance music. Kane freaked out as Taker made his slow and steady walk to the ring. Lawler said, "Kane was wrong, Undertaker isn't dead." Kane began crying. "I killed you!" he screamed. "You are not real!" Fans chanted "Under-taker, Undertaker-taker." Kane reached out to touch Taker to see if he was real, but Taker just pummelled him with a barrage of punches. When the ref got in his face, Taker scared him to ringside. Kane then also bailed out to ringside. When Taker went after Kane at ringside, Kane took brief control. Taker then took control and threw Kane back into the ring at 1:00. Ross and Lawler called this interpromotional match, so they were given the two bigger matches of the three that were up for grabs. Kane lifted Taker in the air and Taker took a nasty off-balance fall because he was halfway between deciding a backdrop bump or a face-first bump. The ref checked on him, then Kane threw some punches at Taker. Taker rolled on top and threw punches at Kane. Kane came back with a sideslam. Kane went to the top rope and came off with a flying clothesline that connected. At 4:15 Taker climbed to the top rope and walked a few steps and came off with a forearm. The crowd popped for the rope walk. Kane countered with a vice grib on Taker's neck. Taker returned the favor. Kane, though, won the battle and scored with a chokeslam. He was slow to make the cover. He began laughing. Taker, though, sat up. The crowd popped again. Taker ducked a Kane clothesline and few at Kane with a clothesline of his own. Taker then slammed Kane to the mat at 6:15. The fans chanted "Tombstone, Tombstone." They got their wish, as Taker gave Kane a Tombstone piledriver for the three count. Nice spectacle match, but I'd say overall actually a bit of a letdown. Taker just didn't show enough vulnerability, so there wasn't a ton of drama where you ever felt he was in jeopardy of losing. His pinfall win didn't get the type of pop you'd expect given all the build up as a result of that "inevitable feeling" that was there all along. Ross reminded viewers of his undefeated record at WrestleMania. (**)

(12) Chris Benoit beat Triple H and Shawn Michaels to capture the World Hvt. Title at 24:07. Benoit and Michaels knocked Hunter out of the ring and then went after each other with hard chop exchanges. Michaels cradled Benoit for a two count at 1:00. At 2:30 Michaels then flipped off the top rope onto both Benoit and Hunter at ringside. Later, Lawler complained about Michaels and Benoit working together against Hunter. Michaels nipped up. Benoit then nailed Michaels with a hard clothesline, sending him over the top rope. When Benoit later climbed to the top rope, Michaels knocked him off balance. Benoit slipped Hunter into a Crossface. Michaels broke it up at 9:45. Michaels went for a back suplex series on Benoit. The crowd booed at Michaels for stealing Benoit's move. Michaels nailed Hunter with the Sweet Chin Music. Benoit yanked Hunter out of the ring before three. Benoit catapulted Michaels over the top turnbuckle and into the corner ringpost. He came up bleeding heavily from the forehead. Benoit then went for a Crossface. Michaels struggled, but Benoit got it locked on. Michaels hinted at a tap, but Hunter grabbed his arm and wouldn't let him tap. Later, Hunter began dismantling the Smackdown announcers' table. Benoit recovered enough to ram Hunter into the Spanish announcers' table. Benoit set up a back suplex of Hunter off of the Spanish table and onto the Raw announcers' table. Hunter blocked it and set up a Pedigree on the Spanish table. They didn't remove the monitors on those tables, so you knew nobody was bumping on them. A very bloody Michaels met Hunter and Benoit on the table. He paused and looked at Hunter. The two then decided to work together in suplexing Benoit onto the Smackdown table, which collapsed underneath Benoit when he landed. They had removed the monitors from that table. Michaels then entered the ring and called for Hunter to enter the ring. "It's you and me!" shouted Michaels. Michaels's face was completely red and blood had dripped onto his chest. When Hunter entered the ring, Michaels threw him over the top rope to the floor where he bumped into the cameraman. Michaels threw Hunter into the ringpost. Fans began an "HBK, HBK" chant. Hunter gave Michaels a Pedigree, but was slow to make the cover. Benoit made the save to prevent the three count. Hunter was a bloody mess at this point, too. Hunter went for another Pedigree, this time on Benoit, but Benoit escaped and applied the Sharpshooter at 21:15. Hunter screamed Flair-style in agony. The crowd went nuts. Hunter lifted himself and tried to power out as he continued to scream. Hunter crawled to the bottom rope and touched it, but then Benoit yanked him back to center ring. Michaels then re-entered the ring to stop Benoit from winning by giving him a superkick. That was a very dramatic near tapout. Michaels draped his arm over Benoit for a near fall. The crowd chanted "Benoit, Benoit, Benoit." Michaels stomped the mat several times and the crowd booed, clearly having sided with Benoit. Benoit ducked Michaels's superkick and backdropped him over the top rope. Hunter then kicked Benoit in the belly and went for the Pedigree. Benoit reversed it into a Crossface at 23:15 and the fans popped huge. Hunter reached for the bottom rope, but couldn't reach it. He began fading. He managed to reverse out of it, but Benoit immediately reapplied it. Hunter then tapped out. The crowd popped huge. The ref handed Benoit the belt. He began crying. He stood and held the belt in the air. Eddie Guerrero came out and congratulated him. They hugged. Eddie began crying, too. Confetti dropped from the ceiling as they both held their titles in the air. That was a really, really good Triple Threat match. The finishing sequence was as dramatic as I can remember in any match. The crowd reaction helped take it to five stars, as did Benoit's emotional reaction to the win and Ross's dramatic announcing. Five stars. (*****)


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