MAGIC, MEMORIES AND MANIA: Five Shows to Watch On WWE Network: WrestleMania Showstealers – Part 2
WrestleMania has begun to take shape, and I have never seen a weaker card for the “Showcase of the Immortals.” I am still amazed at the reaction to Shane McMahon, who was a goofy mid-card stuntman even in his prime. Overall, the storylines have been completely illogical, and the character motivations and actions totally contradictory. Thankfully, through the WWE Network you can go back and watch all of the classic WrestleMania matches.
This is the second edition of my WrestleMania series on undercard showstealers. Again, I will not give away any winners in case you have not seen the shows. Here are five showstopping matches that stole the show from the main event
(5) Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James – WrestleMania 22
WrestleMania 22 was the perfect example of a card that looked weak on paper but became a spectacular show. I attend Wrestlemania in person every year, and the women’s match generally means a mass exodus to the bathroom. This was the one exception. Unlike the embarrassing “Divas Revolution,” with all the crying and character inconsistencies, Trish and Mickie were given a compelling story with a slow build that revolved around James’s creepy obsession with Stratus.
It led to a thrilling match at Mania with a rabid crowd that turned on Trish for the charismatic heel. Mickie gave arguably the greatest female performance in the history of wrestling. She played her deranged stalker character to perfection, and for once, the WWE gave the Wrestlemania crowd an electrifying woman’s match that stood out even amongst a card full of exciting showcases. WWE should go back and study this feud and finale as a template on how to create interest in the women’s division instead of making lame girl power proclamations.
(4) Hulk Hogan vs, Vince McMahon – WrestleMania 19
In my opinion, WrestleMania 19 is the greatest of all time. No show had such strong star power, and there are no bigger names than the two men who formed the foundation of Wrestlemania and the wrestling business as we know it, Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan. They billed it as the match 20 Years in the Making, and the build-up was brilliant. Each man made their case that they were the reason for the success of the Mania brand. They brought out real history in creating a captivating story. Numerous celebrities including Bob Costas, Arnold, etc. gave their thoughts on the contest.
The match itself was much better than it had any right to be, especially given the age of the competitors. Neither are great wrestlers, but this was a perfect example of the strength of larger than life personalities creating a big match atmosphere. It was a bloody and brutal street fight with numerous iconic Wrestlemania moments including a surprise appearance and a devilish close-up on a crimson-masked McMahon. If you have not seen Wrestlemania 19, go back and watch the entire show because it is a classic, and this is one of the reasons it is possibly the greatest card in wrestling history.
(3) Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg – WrestleMania 20
Brock Lesnar will be in one of the main events at WrestleMania 31, but over a decade ago, many thought his wrestling career was finished at WrestleMania 20. This was one of the first examples of spoiler spreading like wildfire. Lesnar had not announced he was leaving WWE, but the entire Mania audience discovered the news. Bill Goldberg’s contract was also up, and fans knew it would be his last match as well after a disappointing run with the company.
It lead to a truly surreal atmosphere where each combatant was booed out of the building, and it was one of the first examples of the crowd hijacking a show. I was there, and it was a mesmerizing experience. The action in the ring was inept, but both wrestlers were obviously distracted by the brutal audience reaction. The highlight here was guest referee Steve Austin smirking and trying to sustain his composure. This is a must-see for the train-wreck value because it stole the show for all the wrong reasons.
(2) Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart – WrestleMania 10
WrestleMania 10 was a changing of the guard for WWF. It was the first time Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage were not closing the show. Fittingly, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels stole the show with two of the greatest matches in wrestling history. The opening match featured Bret facing off against his brother Owen. The feud leading up to the match was intriguing with Owen playing the jealous younger sibling to perfection. After months of build-up and betrayal, Bret finally agreed to a match.
It was a technical wrestling showcase that featured grand storytelling in the ring. The Hart brothers had amazing chemistry, and it led to the greatest opening match in WWE/F pay-per-view history. This is the first of an excellent series between the two, and it is one of the matches that changed the direction of WWF to focus more on great matches as opposed to muscle-bound cartoon characters.
(1) Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 21
WrestleMania 21 saw the show going Hollywood, and this classic undercard match was as dramatic as any Oscar winning film. This was the era of the strong brand split, and it led to fans salivating about potential dream matches. Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels had never crossed paths until the 2005 Royal Rumble where the feud started. Expectations for this match were through the roof, and it was helped by an excellent series of promos between the two. It was the first time HBK started calling himself Mr. WrestleMania. Angle proclaimed that anything Michaels could do, he could do better, and it led to some memorable segments, including a terrific match with Marty Jannetty.
The best part of this match was the winner was a true mystery so it made every nearfall or submission a dramatic showcase. It is arguably the greatest athletic match-up in Wrestlemania history. Bobby Heenan called it the best match he had ever seen, and it was an impossible act to follow. I was in the audience, and the atmosphere was that of a high profile prizefight. It was not only a showstealer, it was as Michaels loves to say, a showstopper.
– I hope you enjoyed this week’s list of Mania undercard classics, and be sure to check them out on the WWE Network. Stay tuned for next week’s edition for more WrestleMania showstealers.