Torch Flashbacks WWE WRESTLEMANIA 18 FLASHBACK - 9 yrs. ago (03-17-02): Hogan vs. Rock, Triple H vs. Jericho, Undertaker vs. Flair, Wrestlers currently in TNA & Returning for WM27 roles
Mar 17, 2011 - 12:00:10 PM
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WWE WrestleMania Flashback - WM18
March 17, 2002 - Nine Years Ago
Top Ten Things
(1) Top Match: The Rock beat Hulk Hogan in a special attraction match most remembered for the Toronto crowd pro-Hogan despite Hogan booked as the heel.
(2) Main Event: Triple H beat Chris Jericho to capture the Undisputed Title.
(3) The Streak Victim: Undertaker beat Ric Flair half-way through the PPV.
(4) Attitude Era vs. NWO: Steve Austin beat Scott Hall in an anti-climatic singles match.
(5) Semi-Main Event: Jazz beat Lita and Trish Stratus in a three-way match to capture the WWF Women's Title.
(6) Opening Match: Rob Van Dam pinned William Regal.
(7) WrestleMania 27 Season Guest Involvement In 2011: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Trish Stratus, Booker T, JBL.
(8) Currently On Raw: Triple H, William Regal, Goldust.
(9) Currently On Smackdown: Undertaker, Kane, Edge, Christian.
(10) Currently In TNA: Kurt Angle, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Rob Van Dam, Team 3D, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy.
WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 18 (2002)
March 17, 2002
Toronto, Ont., Canada at the Skydome
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
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TORCH NEWSLETTER COVER STORY
HEADLINE: Hogan and Flair steal the show at WrestleMania
SUBHEADLINE: Raw next day sets stage for big changes in WWF, including talent pool split, perhaps end of Steph on TV
A couple years ago, Hulk Hogan was desperately trying to find a persona that got a rise out of the crowd—either positive or negative. Nothing worked, and in the process he looked lost, desperate, and even pathetic. Last Sunday, it's as if none of that happened. The WWF fans in Toronto's Skydome gave Hogan one of the biggest, most resounding ovations in wrestling history. It lasted throughout the entire match. Even more remarkable, the fans turned on Rock.
The level of cheers for Hogan and the booing of Rock took WWF officials by surprise. They expected a somewhat split crowd, but not a strong, unified anti-Rock crowd. By the next night at Raw, all was made good again. It was a strange scene, though, seeing the WWF use a 25 minute segment to have Hogan turn the fans in favor of Rock. It was supposed to be the other way around as Rock somehow forgave Hogan for trying to kill him a few weeks earlier. It worked, as the boos for Raw at the start of Raw turned into cheers when they came out for the main event an hour and a half later on Raw.
It was a remarkable two days for the WWF in so many ways. While Hogan got a taste of his glory days, so did his '80s counterpart Ric Flair. Flair, the biggest non-WWF star of the past 25 years, had perhaps his best WWF moment since lasting 60 minutes to win the Royal Rumble just over ten years earlier. Flair's match with Undertaker threatened to steal the show. The reaction Flair received may have made Hogan nervous that Flair was going to show him up on what was supposed to be his and Rock's night. As it turned out, WrestleMania X–8 will be remembered the night that the top two stars of the '80s were recognized by a new generation of fans for their impact on the business.
Triple H regained the WWF Title from Chris Jericho in an anti-climactic finale. Triple H and Jericho did what they could to wrest a bit more enthusiasm out of the crowd, but it didn't work. Steve Austin and Scott Hall didn't even seem to put forth any kind of special effort. They went through the motions and clocked out in less than ten minutes.
WrestleMania was the climax of a number of undercard feuds that were only half-heartedly promoted. The next night on Raw, the WWF hit the "reset" button, shifting attention toward a top feud of Rock teaming with Hogan against Hall and Nash.
The WWF also announced that the roster will be split into two separate groups next week, one that will wrestle on Raw with Ric Flair in control and the other that will wrestle on Smackdown with Vince McMahon in control. Linda McMahon made the major announcement, but other than saying that the women's and men's heavyweight champs will appear on both shows, no hints were given as to who will appear on which show.
Very few people know how the roster split will shape up. In fact, wrestlers weren't told this week which roster they'll end up on next week. The writing team has already split the roster and has the two separate lists saved on a computer. They are not, however, revealing the split to the wrestlers yet other than a few likely exceptions such as Rock, Triple H, Austin, Hall, Nash, and Hogan. The wrestlers will find out next week, perhaps as Raw airs or perhaps a few minutes before going on the air, which show they'll be on from now on. Nothing has been done by management to inform wrestlers how the split will affect their schedules or pay.
The first post-WrestleMania PPV, April's Backlash, will feature wrestlers from both rosters on one PPV, but the matches are going to feature just wrestlers facing each other who are on the same roster. It's the approach that was originally planned for just house shows back when the plan was to immediately begin running two PPVs per month—one for each roster. That plan has changed, and the WWF appears to be playing by ear how they're going to handle any expansion of the PPV schedule. The plans for the weekly Jarrett PPV shows starting in June shouldn't affect their plans since Jarrett is running on Wednesday nights at a much lower price and likely will attract a different audience.
The working plan was for Triple H to defend the WWF Title against Undertaker at Backlash, and it appears Rock & Hogan will likely have a rematch against Hall & Nash also, perhaps with two others being added (perhaps X-Pac on the Hall & Nash side and Austin on the Rock & Hogan side). It appears former champ Chris Jericho is headed to the mid-card with Kurt Angle, Kane, Rob Van Dam—others who have tasted main events, but not taken over the top spots held by Triple H, Rock, Austin, and now Hogan, Hall, and Nash.
The split will change in some respects what it means to be a mid-card wrestler. Without each of the top wrestler taking up long segments twice a week on both shows, it opens the door for mid-carders to get extended TV time once a week. That, in theory, should allow for the second-tier wrestlers' angles to develop more depth. That, in theory, should help develop new top tier stars.
The WWF is also attempting to sign free agent cruiserweight wrestlers such as Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero. Management is telling them that they want them to be a big part of their new cruiserweight division. It's likely the cruiserweights will be featured on either Smackdown or Raw, but not both, while perhaps the tag team division is featured on the other. The Hardcore, Intercontinental, and European titles will end up on one show or the other based on whether the current champ is drafted by either Flair or McMahon.
At this point Rock and Hogan appear to be destined to be on the same show as Hall and Nash in order to take advantage of their feud. It's also possible that Hall and Nash will be split since the WWF hinted at that with a backstage segment where William Regal taunted the Hardys with the prospects that they'll be separated in the draft. More than likely, though, somehow Hall, Nash, Hogan, and Rock will end up anchoring one show, while Triple H and Undertaker are among those anchoring the other show. Austin could end up on either show.
The future of Stephanie McMahon as an on-air comment was brought into question with an angle on Raw, also. Next week on Raw, Steph teams with Chris Jericho against Triple H. If Jericho pins Triple H, he becomes the new champ. If Triple H pins Steph, Steph has to "leave the WWF." It's possible Steph is writing herself off of TV—at least for a while—in part due to the weak ratings since she‘s been a featured character and because of a growing public backlash toward her self-imposed push.
The WWF is going to look very different in two weeks than it did just one week ago. With the flat ratings despite a hefty increase in payroll from the acquisitions of the NWO, the WWF had great incentive to shake things up—and they are.
KELLER'S MATCH RESULTS & ANALYSIS
Saliva played a song live... A highlight package aired of past WrestleManias with narration by current wrestlers... Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the event...
(1) Rob Van Dam pinned William Regal in 7:00 to capture the Intercontinental Title. On paper, this appeared to be a clash of styles. That could have been a negative, but instead each wrestler tempered the negatives of the other's style. Regal was forced turn up the pacing a notch, and Van Dam was forced to sell better than usual and pace himself in a way that made more sense than usual. Regal attempted to use his brass knux several times, but the ref intervened. Van Dam then hit the Five-Star Splash for the win. Very good opener. Some of Regal's offense looked like it killed Van Dam. His selling was convincing. (**3/4)
Christian, interviewed by Lilian Garcia, said he is past the temper tantrums and is in touch with his emotions. He is ready to re-take his title as the champion of Europe. Christian mocked Dallas Page's smile.
(2) Dallas Page pinned Christian at in 6:00 to retain the European Title. Good, solid match, but entirely forgettable once the event was over. Christian almost threw a tantrum mid-match, but took a deep breath. Page surprised Christian with a Diamond Cutter to end the match. After the match Page told Christian he is proud of him because he lost, but didn't lose his temper. He mocked Christian by saying even though he lost in front of 67,000 in person and zillions on TV, he didn't lose his temper. Christian then realized the circumstances and threw a huge tantrum. (**)
Rock, interviewed by Johnathan Coachman, talked about wrestling Hollywood Hogan later. Rock made Coachman pray, and Coachman kneeled and said, "What up, G? I'm giving you a shout out..." Rock interrupted and told him he was a freak, then kicked him out of the way. Rock looked back at the camera and asked Hogan what he's gonna do when the Rock runs wild on him. He ripped off his shirt and promised Hogan he would "smell what the Rock is cooking." Typical good Rock promo, although the Coachman humor bit was corny.
(3) Maven vs. Goldust ended when Spike Dudley pinned Maven to win the Hardcore Title after about 3:00. Goldust attacked Maven at the bell, knocking him to ringside. Goldust got a golden shovel out from under the ring. He stomped on Maven's hand. They each swung trash can lids at each other. Spike Dudley ran to the ring and covered Maven for a three count to win the Hardcore Title. Crash Holly ran out and chased Spike through the crowd.
They cut away to a promo for upcoming live events, which seemed a bit tacky to air during WrestleMania. A t-shirt commercial followed... Drowning Pool performed a song... They cut backstage where Crash and Spike were still fighting. Al Snow drove a cart after them, but crashed into a wall of empty cardboard boxes. Hurricane flew into the scene on a rope and covered Spike to win the Hardcore Title at 15:05. Snow got out from under the cardboard boxes and looked around, realized Hurricane was gone, and shouted, "Damn."
(4) Kurt Angle pinned Kane in 11:00. Although you wouldn't think of Kane as the type of opponent who would bring out the best in Angle, in a way he does. Angle's suplexes during the match looked more impressive than ever against someone of Kane's size. Late in the match, a winded Kane climbed to the top rope. Angle caught him up there and suplexed him quickly to the mat. Nice, sudden move. As Kane struggled to his feet, Angle rolled him to the mat for a pin, but Kane slipped out of it. Angle readjusted his cover, put his feet on the middle rope for leverage, and scored the three count. The finish was messed up, but Angle improved well. (***)
They showed Hurricane backstage holding a broom stick to defend himself against any Hardcore challengers. They showed Godfather's escorts backstage grabbing their boobs and discussing whether their breasts are too big, (because we all know that's what women do when they're alone). Hurricane watched from behind a wall. The women discovered the spy and screamed. Godfather showed up and chased Hurricane away...
(5) Undertaker pinned Ric Flair in 19:00. This might turn out to be one of the most memorable matches of either man's career, as strange as that sounds, because of the atmosphere and presumably large PPV audience. Just a great spectacle. Too bad Flair's performance wasn't heralded on Raw the next day. The crowd really helped as they totally bought into Flair as an underdog legend fending off a bigger, tougher bully. Great storytelling. Flair bled heavily. Taker bled a little, too. The crowd popped for everything, especially near falls near the end. Little Naitch (Charles Robinson) was the referee for the match, appropriately enough. Arn Anderson entered the ring late in the match and gave Taker a sidewalk slam, which effectively gave hope to the crowd that Flair stood a chance to actually score an upset pin. Flair battered Taker with a chair. Taker kicked the chair into Flair's face, hit a Tombstone piledriver, and scored the pin. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands throughout a match that was as long as a typical WWF PPV main event with the standard setters of today such as Triple H, Steve Austin, Rock, and Chris Jericho. Taker sold effectively and believably. Flair showed a new generation of fans why he is likely the greatest performer in this industry ever. (***3/4)
(6) Edge pinned Booker T in 7:00. The WWF paced this show in a way that after every dramatic, emotionally draining match, there was a "recovery match." This was a recovery match. It was fine, and had some fun spots, but the crowd was catching its breath. Edge did his own version of a Spinarooni, but the crowd didn't seem all that connected to him as a babyface. Edge won clean with his finisher. (**)
Hurricane was being interviewed by Coachman backstage when Mighty Molly turned on him by hitting him over the head with a frying pan and pinning him to capture the Hardcore Title... An NWO feature aired...
(7) "Stone Cold" Steve Austin pinned Scott Hall (w/Kevin Nash) in 10:00. Despite the "recovery match," the crowd still didn't seem ready to embrace this with any emotions. The wrestlers seemed passive, also. Not a bad match, but neither wrestler seemed determined to exceed the low expectations. Austin went after Hall aggressively at the start, then it settled into a basic back-and-forth match. A series of ref bumps at the end opened the door for Nash to interfere. Hall gave Austin a Stunner, but Austin kicked out of the pin attempt. Austin then nailed Hall with a quick Stunner for the win. Anti-climactic. (**1/2)
Highlights aired of WrestleMania Axxess with wrestlers commenting on how much fun they had interacting with fans. They showed Hollywood Hogan, whom Vince McMahon supposedly brought to the WWF to destroy the WWF, shaking hands with fans at Axxess.
(8) Chuck & Billy won a four-way match with The Dudleys vs. The Hardys (w/Stacy) vs. APA to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles in 14:00. The APA were eliminated first followed by The Dudleys. That left the Hardys vs. Chuck & Billy. A flat match from a flat tag team division. (*3/4)
Backstage, Hall said he wouldn't lose to Austin again. Nash said Rock would pay the price later for what happened earlier with Austin. Hogan interrupted and said he wanted to do it alone to test exactly what he has left. Nash and Hall weren't thrilled. Once Hogan walked away, Nash told Hall they would still get involved... Molly walked into a split-door backstage, and Christian scored the pin to win the Hardcore Title... A highlight package aired previewing the Hogan-Rock feud...
(9) The Rock pinned Hollywood Hulk Hogan in 17:00. This was one of those amazing matches that makes all of those bad matches and boring shows worth it in the end. Hogan could barely perform physically due to age and injury, but everything fell into place and the match rose to a metaphysical level as a result. Hogan was cheered when he came out, and the crowd support grew as the match progressed. Hogan seemed genuinely moved at the crowd response and the enormity of the moment. Rock seemed a bit thrown by the crowd, which began to boo him anytime he showed flashes of offense early in the match. Jim Ross really hurt his credibility by trying to downplay the transcendent moment taking place in front of everyone's eyes, at one point actually trying to explain that Hogan was getting more cheers merely because his fans were "more vocal" than Rock's. There comes a time to just accept that something unexpected happened and not try to spin it differently. It's amazing how announcers (or promoters talking into the announcer's headset) react when a crowd responds in a way different than Pavlov intended.
Hogan shoved Rock down at the start of the match after a collar and elbow hook up and the crowd popped for Hogan. Fans began a loud "Rocky sucks" chant. Rock didn't do anything to deserve it or encourage it. Hogan posed and played to the crowd's enormous cheers. Hogan took Rock down with a clothesline and the crowd popped again. Rock came back with a punch and then we got a really mixed reactionâ€”about 50/50 cheers and boos. Rock hit Hogan with another clothesline and the boos were louder than the cheers. Hogan fought back again quickly, hitting Rock with an elbow to the face. Hogan then stomped on Rock's face. A loud "Hogan, Hogan" chant began. They had a missed spot where Hogan tossed Rock into the corner, and then raised his boot, but Rock didn't step out to meet the boot. The missed spots were quickly forgotten, though. Rock hit Hogan with a series of punches and played to the crowd, but the crowd kept booing. Rock began selling moves like a heel rather than a face. Both wrestlers seemed to accept the crowd's choice and played into it with subtle adjustments to facial expressions and selling.
Later in the match, Hogan tapped out to Rock during the Sharpshooter, but the ref was down. It seemed to be a classic Patterson swerve, since usually when someone taps out when the ref is down, that wrestler will end up winning; the blind tap-out is meant to give the losing wrestler a claim to moral victory. In this case, it was a clever swerve that subtly gave the impression Hogan might actually win in the end. Hogan hit Rock with a low blow and the crowd popped. Hogan gave Rock a Rock Bottom and the crowd popped wildly. Rock DDT'd Hogan, although Hogan dropped awkwardly and thus it didn't look good. Rock began whipping Hogan, but rather than play it as a babyface getting revenge, his facial expressions were similar to a heel (not because that was the plan, but because he had to). Rock then gave Hogan a Rock Bottom, but Hogan kicked out and then began his Hulking up routine. Hogan pointed at Rock and waved his finger in his face. Hogan whipped Rock into the ropes and gave him the big boot followed by the legdrop. Rock kicked out. They went to a wide shot and the fans were on their feet. Hogan gave Rock another Big Boot and went for another legdrop, but Rock moved. Rock then gave Hogan a Rock Bottom. The crowd booed. Rock didn't go for the cover. Instead, he gave Hogan another Rock Bottom. Rock nipped up and did get some loud cheers. He then went for the People's Elbow. Lots of cheers, but not as many as Hogan for his first legdrop. He then got a clean three count.
Just a fascinating match. The execution was sloppy in some spots, but the crowd involvement was so intense that it made the match one of the most memorable of WrestleMania history. Rock played to the crowd afterward, but their cheers were muted a bit since many seemed disappointed Hogan went down for the count. Hogan struggled to his feet and extended his hand after the match. Ross questioned whether Rock could trust him. Rock accepted the handshake. Hogan grabbed his injured ribs and seemed to be legitimately having trouble standing up straight. Hogan pointed at Rock and said he's the man. A oneâ€“star match in terms of quality of execution, a four-star match in terms of how the match was laid out and unfolded, and a fiveâ€“star match in terms of crowd enthusiasm, and beyond five stars on the "spectacle" scale. (****)
Hall and Nash came out and attacked Hogan. Rock made the save quickly and easily, again making the NWO seem relatively non-threatening. Hogan was going to leave, but Rock wouldn't let him. He insisted he reenter the ring and pose for the crowd. The crowd chanted "Hogan, Hogan" again. Hogan cupped his ears for each corner of the arena and then posed. The crowd, though, didn't seem entirely happy when Rock imposed himself in the situation. They wanted Hogan to have his moment alone, without Rock. Rock's music played as they left together. They stood together on the stage for a final moment. Hogan returned to the back and Rock just stood there, looking at his feet, taking in the emotion of one of the most dramatic matches of his career.
Howard Finkle announced that WrestleMania set a new Skydome attendance record of 68,237â€”the largest crowd for any event in the building before.
(10) Jazz won a three-way match with Lita and Trish Stratus for the Women's Title in 7:00. The women's movement that began decades ago has finally reached its apex. The WWF Women's Title match is second-to-last at WrestleMania. This match was necessary to give the fans a breather before the Jericho-Triple H main event. The women worked hard, but they knew going in they couldn't follow the Hogan-Rock match. Lita and Trish had some half-hearted exchanges at 8:45. When Lita went to the top rope, Trish knocked her off balance. Jazz then suplexed Lita off the top rope and scored the pin. (*)
Christian celebrated his Hardcore Title win in the parking lot. As Christian was about to get into a taxi, Maven came up from behind and cradled him. A ref happened to be right there and counted to three. Maven leaped into the taxi and drove off, holding the belt in the air. Christian threw a tantrum in the parking lot.
(11) Triple H pinned Chris Jericho (w/Stephanie McMahon) in 19:00 to capture the WWF Title. If Triple H and Jericho were able to follow the Hogan-Rock and Flair-Taker matches, they would have deserved MVP honors. Instead, it was too much to overcome. They had a solid main event match, but the crowd was burned out. It seemed as if Triple H and Jericho were resigned to that fact, also, and didn't let it negatively affect their performance. Triple H favored his taped thigh during the match. Steph raked Triple H's eyes early in the match. Tirple H threw Steph into the ring and teased a Pedigree, but Jericho made the save. Late, Steph stood on the ring apron to distract the ref. Jericho grabbed a chair, but Triple H DDT'd Jericho onto it and scored a near fall. Ross gave away that Triple H was winning by overstating that that two count might be Triple H's final chance to win the match, since late in a match it's predictable cliche that announcers oversell the impossibility of whatever is the actual planned result. Steph entered the ring to interfere. Triple H grabbed her and set up the Pedigree and drove her face into the mat. A relatively mild pop followed. Either the crowd was fatigued or Canada, like America, is sick of Steph's overexposure on TV. Jericho nailed Triple H with a chair and went for the pin; Triple H kicked out prompting another mild crowd pop. Jericho followed with a Pedigree attempt on Triple H, but Triple H reversed out of it and gave Jericho a Pedigree for the win. An okay match. It didn't drag even though it went nearly 30 minutes, but it wasn't up to par with their previous matches. (***1/2)
A music video with highlights of WrestleMania concluded the event...
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