Ten Of The Best: WrestleMania Rematches

  • By Paul Benson
  • 13 Apr, 2017

Often Overlooked. Often Fantastic.

We are not the biggest fans of endless list columns here at HOW. Say What? Culture is about more than just endless list articles churned out endlessly. That said, there are obviously some fantastic and thought provoking examples of these type of columns. We intend this to be the first in a semi-regular edition of Ten Of The Best where we will run through what we think are topical and interesting lists. We won't do them more than a couple of times a month so hopefully won't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find an interesting angle. With that in mind, please do get in touch with us if you have a suggestion for any future articles. If we get a good one we will definitely consider it. With that in mind, read on for the first of our Ten Of The Best columns......

The Ultimate Thrill Ride is over and the hangover is kicking in. With such a focus on WrestleMania, it's very easy for everything that follows to sit in its shadow. We are hyped up to such a degree for the tentpole event that it's hard to shake that thick head and enjoy what immediately follows. The Raw After Mania (TM, seemingly) helps. Always a great way to give focus to the weekly programme again but what WWE really wants us to start looking towards is the next PPV. 

Whether that is Backlash, Payback, Extreme Rules or even In Your House, it's very important that WWE can grab our attention straight away and a great way to do that has traditionally been giving us another chance to see some of the biggest 'Mania matches on the slightly smaller stage. Wisely in fact, the whole theme of these post-WM Pay Per Views has been the fact that we will see the previous marquee matches again.

It has been a formula that has been successful at times and not at others. Sometimes it has felt a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' with the magic previously present having been diluted by the diminishing returns of the sequel. Think of how many classic films have been followed by a mediocre and less successful follow up. The Hobbit springs to mind. Other times though we get Terminator 2 - A worthy companion piece to the original match that enhances the overall story and sometimes even eclipses the original.

With us getting not one but two rematch themed PPVs in the next few weeks in Backlash and Payback, we are right in the midst of sequel season in WWE. With that in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to run down the 10 best WrestleMania rematches in history. Often these matches are overlooked or forgotten next to their more famous WrestleMania companions. It's time to shine a light on these and maybe get some of you to go back and enjoy some hidden gems. All matches listed are available on WWE Network.

When compiling this list we stuck to the following criteria:

- Matches presented on Pay Per View only. Anything on Raw, Smackdown etc we haven't included.
- The matches must be on the very next PPV after WrestleMania. This might be Backlash the next month, it may be SummerSlam months down the line, as long as it is the next PPV. The only exception to this is in the period during the original Brand Extension where WWE had brand specific PPVs. For this period we have included both the next Raw PPV and the next Smackdown PPV.
- Matches must include the exact same combatants in the same configurations. Adding a body to make it a triple threat doesn't count, nor does adding two single matches together in a tag team match. Changing stipulations or adding a special referee is fine however.

By our count there are 34 matches that fit this criteria starting with The Ultimate Warrior vs. 'Ravishing' Rick Rude at Summerslam 1989 through to Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton at Extreme Rules 2015. Neither made our list. Read on to find out what did:
#10 - Edge vs. Chris Jericho (Steel Cage Match) - Extreme Rules, April 25th 2010.

These two originally faced off at WrestleMania 26 as Edge came back from long term injury to win the Royal Rumble and challenge World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho at the big show. Jericho came out on top in that match but his celebrations were not to last long. The following Smackdown saw the newly minted Mr Money In The Bank, Jack Swagger steal the title from Jericho following an attack from his Canadian rival. A drawn Number One Contenders match led to these guys being booked in a cage at Extreme Rules.

What followed was a damn fine match between two experienced pros. Jericho was in the midst of his acclaimed heel run and his viciousness came to the fore here, albeit in a fairly PG fashion. The intensity was great to see in this match with some brutal spots and moves focusing on injured body parts, primarily Edge's ankle. The highlight of the match was a quick fire top-rope Codebreaker from Jericho that drew gasps from the crowd. Another highlight was the cleverness of Jericho's character. Unlike most in cage matches, Jericho clearly understood that the easiest way to win was bolting for the door (An absurd way to win a match by the way) and he attempted this time after time. Thankfully for Edge, he was able to thwart Y2J each time and eventually pinned him after a spear in the centre of the ring.
#9 - WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho (Chicago Street Fight) - Extreme Rules - April 29th 2012

Neither the first time we see Jericho on this list, nor the last time we will see mention of the exceptional Extreme Rules 2012.

This match came during Punk's record setting WWE Championship run and saw them come back together after Punk had successfully defended his strap at WrestleMania 26. These two master storytellers crafted an intensely personal story based on Punk's Straight Edge devotion and Jericho trying to tempt him off that path to follow in the footsteps of his (allegedly) alcoholic father.

That this match was in Chicago ensured both a phenomenal reception for the champion and a fevered atmosphere. It really added to this match that was such a great reflection of the edgy narrative these two had engaged in. A dousing in beer and attempted humiliation of his sister at ringside saw Punk reach levels of rage not yet seen in him before this point and aided in ratcheting up the tension and the heat in this encounter. Both guys took full advantage of the street fight stipulation by bringing kendo sticks, fire extinguishers and chairs into play in a clever and structured way. This was no garbage brawl and it was never going to be with two master craftsmen involved.

The finish saw the heel Jericho get his just desserts with a Go To Sleep set up by him being catapulted in to a turnbuckle he himself exposed a few minutes earlier.

A superb match in a great feud. Would you expect anything less from these two?
#8 - 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. Bret 'Hitman' Hart - In Your House: Revenge Of The 'Taker, April 20th 1997

How do you follow arguably the greatest WrestleMania match of all time? Well obviously you don't but if you could bank on two men doing it, these two would be your guys.

This was a fascinating match in the sense that it was the first PPV since their fabled double turn at WrestleMania 13. Austin was just starting to embrace the cheers of the crowd and Hart had now fully given in to his crybaby, hard done by heel character. He had also just been tearfully and gloriously reunited with his brother Owen and The British Bulldog to form the embryonic version of the Hart Foundation faction that would be fully formed when Brian Pillman would join the next night on Raw and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart seven days later.

The match itself was full of passion and hatred as one would expect from these two at this time. Rarely has there been a feud that felt so real based on the emotions and motivations of the two men involved. Obviously this pervaded this match and just like the month prior, these two superbly mixed technical wrestling with a donnybrook of a brawl. It's hard to think of many striking this balance so successfully since. The match started off with these two tearing strips off each other inside and outside the ring. As the match wore on the focus slowly shifted to Hart working on Austin's knee, slowly injuring it to ensure Austin could not properly execute his offense with him collapsing on a piledriver attempt being particularly noteworthy. The finish came when Owen and Davey jumped in to cause the DQ shortly after Austin reversed the Sharpshooter in to his own version of the move. Sometimes a DQ ending can deflate a great match but not here. It made perfect sense. The only shame was that this was the last time these two would face off one on one on the PPV stage. What a match!
#7 WWE Championship Match: John Cena (c) vs John 'Bradshaw' Layfield (I Quit Match)
- Judgement Day May 22nd 2005


WrestleMania 21 the previous month witnessed Cena winning his first of 16 (to date) world championships in WWE at the expense of JBL. The match was OK but did not set the world alight. As a result, expectations were low to middling for this encounter. Cena initially took the fight to JBL in this I Quit match and it became evident early on that this would be a new type of use for this stipulation. These two would be trying to beat a submission out of the other. And beat each other they did, all over ringside and up and over JBL's limo and the truck on which Cena made his entrance.

The main body of the match was the epitome of a main event garbage brawl. Not bad by any stretch but certainly not all time great. What elevated this match on to the list was the creative finish. A great example of character work came when JBL picked up the mic himself and quit not while locked in a submission but while Cena hoisted an exhaust pipe ready to hit him. That he quit rather than take the blow, while quite capable of continuing, played to the inherent cowardice of the character. A trait that was uniquely mixed with such bravado and power to create a truly loathsome bully heel. This finish showcased that perfectly.

Of course after the finish, Cena lamped JBL with the exhaust pipe anyway. Gotta send those fans home happy!
#6 - World Heavyweight Championship Match - The Undertaker (c) vs. Batista (Last Man Standing Match) - Backlash, April 29th 2007

This encounter was a rematch of one of the most criminally underrated matches in WrestleMania history. Their encounter at WM23 in Detroit was overshadowed by John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels in the main event. For many though, these two put on the match of that particular night.

This match is easily on par with the original, if not better. At WrestleMania, most expected 'Taker to win and extend his streak which put an asterisk against the drama. Not here. It was anyone's game and these two bulls tore in to one another from the bell. Batista was as good as anyone at this point at working as a big man main eventer and of course Undertaker was his equal. The chemistry between these two was immense and the pair of them had the crowd where they wanted them at every single point of the match.

The finish came with a spear off the stage by Batista resulting in some fancy special effect fireworks and a partial collapse of the stage. A bit cheesy perhaps but a fitting end to this match that truly felt like Godzilla facing off with King Kong amidst destruction all around them. A draw was the finish that kept both guys strong and was arguably more satisfying than either of them gaining a victory over the other.

If you don't remember this match, go and watch it now. An outstanding encounter on a superb PPV. This article will be here when you get back.
#5 - Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H (Steel Cage Match), Extreme Rules, 19th May 2013

Back with us?

This was the third and final match of the trilogy between these two. SummerSlam saw Lesnar defeat HHH handily and 'break his arm' in the process. It was hugely well received and Lesnar's first big win since returning to the WWE. Their rematch at WrestleMania 29 saw HHH get his win back to level the series and bring us to this deciding encounter which marked a year since Lesnar's big return.

The story told here was old school booking 101. The cage was Lesnar's domain and within it, he ruled. However, there was an achilles heel. Early in the match, Brock 'injured' his left knee on the cage which allowed him to look vulnerable and led HHH to get strong offence in without Brock looking weak. It was clever. In handicapping the beast they allowed for a more even match and put the outcome very much in doubt.

As with many matches on this list, it is a stipulation match which means for the most part, the traditional wrestling takes a back seat. These guys adhered to that formula with a methodical power match that become a familiar staple of Lesnar's second WWE run. The finish was screwy but satisfying. The fans still react to the sledgehammer and when HHH unleashed it, the crowd went up a notch. They loved it even more when HHH grabbed Paul Heyman (A man whom the phrase 'love to hate' was surely invented for) and hit him with a Pedigree. Of course this allowed Lesnar to turn the tables on his opponent by using the sledgehammer and following that up with an F5 for the victory.

We can look back on this match really as the beginning of the dominant Brock Lesnar that was so successful in 2014 and beyond. His next outing was at SummerSlam with CM Punk and that ultimately led to him ending The Streak the following year.
#4 - World Heavyweight Championship Match - Sheamus (c) vs. Daniel Bryan (2 out of 3 falls match)
- Extreme Rules, April 29th 2012

With hindsight, that 18 second loss to Sheamus the month prior to this worked out OK for Bryan didn't it? That said, it is hard to explain unless you were there just how angry that loss made the fans. Not just because in their eyes it signalled a lack of respect for Bryan but also because they felt cheated out of what should have been a great match. Whilst you can debate the validity of the former complaint, the latter was right on the money. For the second year in a row the fans had been cheated out of a WrestleMania match that they expected to be an epic battle. The clash of styles between these two really got fans excited for the prospect of a superb match and to be denied this two years in a row was frustrating. It must have been been equally frustrating for the two men involved too. Knowing what they were capable of, they were not being allowed to show their skill as performers on the grandest stage. When this match was booked, you can be certain that a big part of what fuelled this spectacular showing was an absolute determination to give the fans what they were salivating for and also sticking it right to the top brass who sidelined them.

If their mission was to show their ability then mission accomplished and then some. Everything anybody expected from this meshing of skill sets came to life. Bryan was still very much in his heel pomp during this match and that came in to play when he deliberately lost the first fall via DQ when he unleashed a flurry of kicks on Sheamus' arm and refusing the referee's count to inflict more damage. Smart strategy that laid the groundwork for the rest of the match because now the bigger Sheamus was having to battle with just one effective arm. That played directly in to the result of the second fall when Bryan applied the Yes Lock almost immediately that led to Sheamus passing out in the hold and thus taking even more damage. Bryan's cunning effectively turned this in to a one fall match with a hideously injured babyface trying to overcome grave odds. Delicious heel booking. After five or so minutes of back and forth action, Sheamus nailed Bryan with a surprise Brogue Kick and took the win, defending his championship in the process.

This was an amazing match and it had to be. Both guys had a point to prove. Make no mistake, this match was probably the most important of Bryan's WWE career at this point. He was certainly not pegged for the success that was soon to come his way but this showing opened so many eyes. It would be flippant to say this is the match that got the fans on his side because they had been cheering him for some time. This was however the match that solidified Bryan as a talent in the eyes of management and set the table for the glorious path ahead of him.
#3 - WWF Championship Match - 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. The Rock (No Holds Barred Match) - Backlash: In Your House, April 25th 1999

Hands up, when you think of Austin vs. Rock on PPV, how many instantly recall this match? Very few of us I'm sure. That's because their famed trilogy of WrestleMania matches eclipses all. However, this was comfortably better than their WrestleMania 15 match the month prior and you could even argue that it was second only to their WrestleMania 17 encounter in terms of quality.

Coming at the tail end of The Rock's 1998-99 main event heel run, this match featured Shane McMahon as special guest referee in order to stack the deck in The Corporation's favour.

A caveat to this report is that this match could be described as Peak Attitude Era. By that I mean that very little of the action could be described as catch-as-catch-can, most of it took place outside the ring and the match itself was weaved in to a soap opera storyline that involved Vince McMahon going soft due to the worry over The Undertaker's stalking of his daughter Stephanie and his son Shane taking the opportunity to boot him out of The Corporation and take control himself. That's as much as I am going to recap of that....

As stated above, this match is the epitome of main event, Attiude Era matches which meant multiple finishers, throwing each other into the set, run ins, belt shots, table bumps, middle fingers, announcer's headsets being worn, ringside cameras being wielded and an absolutely rabid crowd. The belt came when Vince McMahon came to the ring and reluctantly evened the odds for Austin, allowing him to retain his title.

The placement of this match will probably raise a few eyebrows as this style is resolutely not to everyone's tastes. if however, like this writer you were 17 when this match took place, you would have eaten every last scrap of it up and if it is your bag, you will thoroughly believe it deserves it's placement.
#2 - WWE Championship Match - John Cena (c) vs. Batista (Last Man Standing Match)
- Extreme Rules, April 25th 2010



In the run up to this feud we bore witness to one of the most wonderful modern heel characters in WWE. Douchebag Batista was simply a glorious heat machine in his Miami Beach style garish clothing, big shades and pompous gym rat attitude. This was the guy who would steal your girlfriend and make you thank him for the privilege. It truly was a fantastic run. Cena and Batista had tussled at WrestleMania 26 in one of the better matches on the card and this rematch was fought under Last Man Standing Rules. Put simply, it was a war.

Cena steps up in big matches. Of that there can be no dispute. Batista however wasn't thought to be on his level as a big match worker but here he more than held his own (Which to be fair, he did on more occasions than one would remember looking back at his body of work.). These two beat each other half to death and you really felt the hatred as they battled all over the arena, unleashing tables, chairs and parts of the set in an effort to keep each other down. Batista was the unstoppable monster and Cena was the hero who just would not die. Amidst the brutality we also got one of the funniest ad-libs in WWE history. When a fan audibly shouted 'I hate you Batista', Big Dave shot back, quick as a flash with 'I hate you too!' Simple but hilarious and 100% made by his delivery. Did I mention how much I loved heel Batista?

The finish came with a piece of ingenuity from Cena when he used duct tape to keep the big guy down for the 10 count. At this point inventive finishes had not been seen much in Last Man Standing matches and so this made Cena look resourceful, made Batista look super strong and also gave the cry baby element of his character a genuine reason to fuel his walk out and tantrum not long after.

A superb match. Bettered in our opinion by only one WrestleMania rematch in history....
#1 - World Heavyweight Championship Match - Chris Benoit (c) vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - Backlash, April 18th 2004

Let's address the elephant in the room first. Many people won't accept or want to recall the finer moments of Chris Benoit's career given what transpired at the end of his life. If you feel that way then I completely understand and I invite you to read no further, consider this a nine match list and think of the prior match as the best of the lot. For anybody else who, given the passage of time can separate Benoit the man from Benoit the wrestler, I wish to present far and away the finest WrestleMania rematch of all time.

The rematch follows arguably the greatest title match in WrestleMania history and inarguably the greatest triple threat match in WWE history. Tough steps to walk in. Benoit, at the time, was the favourite of the so called smarter fan. A man who many loved for his skills inside the ring. They (well, we actually), longed for his success. His clean victory in his main event opportunity brought elation and celebration to a fanbase that could never have dreamed of him reaching that high.

That they went back to the well with the same match for Backlash was brave indeed. The easy match would have been a singles encounter with either of the two former and future DX cohorts. Credit to WWE. They knew they couldn't top what came before so instead they decided to do it completely differently.

Whilst Benoit was far from fluky in winning the first match, this encounter presented a far different version of the man in this match. Gone was the underdog and in his place was the dominant, confident champion that could stand his ground with the two legends. His adoring hometown crowd in Edmonton, Alberta furthered the aura of Benoit as a conquering hero as he took the fight to his opponents. The match went back and forth continually and the finishing sequence didn't really kick in until Michaels missed a dive on to his two foes and crashed through the announce table (That had cunningly already been prepared for impact by Edge in a previous match). From there the sledgehammer came in to play and we also had a ref bump leading in to the slightly heel leaning Shawn Michaels locking in the Sharpshooter on Benoit. The crowd lost their collective minds when Earl Hebner dashed to the ring. They were rightly fearful that Benoit's moment in the sun was going to be a short one with another Screwjob of a Canadian in his home country about to take place. Instead, we got the very best of the many callbacks to Montreal with Benoit breaking the hold to the euphoria of the crowd before soon winning with a cathartic Sharpshooter of his own. Not only was this Benoit solidifying his title reign and place on the card, this was also WWE subtly apologising to it's Canadian audience for their actions towards Bret Hart almost seven years earlier.

As I said at the start of this section, I can completely understand anyone that wants to scrub this match from existence. But for my mind it is the greatest WrestleMania rematch of all time. Not only a fantastic match in its own right. but also a match that can stand confidently next to the stellar match that preceded it.

So that's it people. The first edition of Ten Of The Best is at an end. What did you think? Like it? Disagreed with us? Did we miss any matches? Please comment and let us know your thoughts.

Paul (@BensonLives)
By Chris Groves 05 May, 2017

Welcome back to Ruthless Aggression Revisited, where we take a look back at a memorable period for WWE in the early 2000s. After April brought us the post-Wrestlemania madness, shock hirings and plenty of firings, one would understandably expect May’s offerings to be something of a hangover. Not so. Not so, one bit. Let's break down all the action from RAW, SmackDown and May's pay-per-view, Judgement Day, along with some analysis, highlights and head-scratchers. 

 

WWE in May 2003: Roundup

Eric Bischoff’s tyrannical reign over RAW begins to go a little too far, threatening to fire half the roster and being rather, let’s say, inappropriate towards the likes of Lita (recovering from injury and commentating on Heat) and Trish Stratus . The board of directors steps in, with Linda McMahon introducing a new Co-General Manager of RAW: Stone Cold Steve Austin . A rather hefty pop ensues .

Stone Cold re-introduces the Intercontinental title, announcing a new battle royal to determine its new holder, with only former champions eligible – and Booker T . Booker appears to win the battle royal, only for a screwy finish to deny him and gift the title to Christian .

He also brings back, for one week only, the Legion of Doom , who lost to Tag Team Champions Kane and Rob Van Dam . French-Canadian tag team La Resistance, consisting of Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier , debut on RAW, feuding at first with YOUR American hero, Scott Steiner , who seems to be inadvertently contributing to the break-up of Test and Stacy Keibler .

Playing on the idea that Bill Goldberg wasn’t welcome in WWE (which, it seems, wasn’t entirely fictional), Chris Jericho begins a strong feud with Goldberg by humiliating him with sneak attacks, trash talk, and pouring paint all over his car. Jericho even convinces Lance Storm to try and run Goldberg over, leading to some memorable ‘interrogations’ from Steve Austin.

Backed up by Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash is on the warpath, laying out World Heavyweight Champion Triple H and chasing him around various arbitrary parking lots. It’s all to build towards a title match at Judgement Day between Nash and Trips, which somewhat failed to live up to expectations. The champion uses his trusty sledgehammer to retain his belt via DQ, but Nash has the final word, powerbombing Triple H through the announce table. The highlight of the World Title picture comes the night after the PPV, however, as Ric Flair defies Hunter (temporarily, at least) and doesn’t lie down for the champ in a title match. Hunter retains but can’t shake off Nash, with Austin booking a Hell in a Cell match between the two for Bad Blood.

Over on SmackDown, after Big Show decided to hurl a stretcher-strewn Rey Mysterio into a ring post last month, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar calls on Show to pick on someone 70% his own size, rather than 30%. Show and Lesnar do battle at Judgement Day in a Stretcher match. By far the highlight of the night, the match ends with Brock bringing a forklift truck to the ring, launching into Show off of it, before placing the 500lb giant onto it and over the line, retaining his title.

The WWE Tag Team title picture is hotting up, as Team Angle, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin , are struggling to handle Eddie and Chavo Guerrero – the latter still being cheered on despite blatantly cheating to win matches. Madness! Los Guerreros also steal the titles, a picture of Kurt Angle and Kurt’s medals on the road to a title match at Judgement Day, but Chavo picks up an injury shortly before the PPV. Tajiri steps in and, in a solid, if not spectacular Ladder match, the unlikely team took the belts from Team Angle.

Stephanie McMahon signs an exciting talent from the indies, named Mr America . Making his debut on an edition of Piper’s Pit, the masked underground upstart actually looks a lot like Hulk Hogan , who Mr McMahon had ordered to stay at home. Mr America’s “no-cut contract” means McMahon is stuck with him, even dodging the infamous lie detector test .

Roddy Piper (flanked by Sean O’Haire ) is unable to put Mr American in his place, losing to him at Judgement Day. Along the way, though, an “America-maniac” by the name of Zach Gowen tries to help his hero by rushing out from the bleachers and coming into the ring – only to have his prosthetic leg ripped off . Uh huh.

 

 

WWE in May 2003: Analysis

-        If you’re hole-picking at WWE storylines (which can lead to some cavernous gaps, if you’re not careful), why did the board of directors choose to wait so long before stepping in on the Bischoff situation? Why didn’t they just fire him? If you’re looking for stability, why pick Steve Austin? Promoting from within is usually a positive move, but this one is a HR nightmare.

 

-        There’s probably a lot more to it than meets the eye, but the concept of the Legion of Doom coming back for one show, losing, then disappearing again, seems very odd. It did get a good reaction , mind you.

 

-        The Los Guerreros gimmick encourages the lazy and disrespectful stereotype that Mexican people are thieves. But it’s also very entertaining and makes them a great babyface tag team. Go figure.

 

-        During a Womens Title match at Judgement Day, Trish Stratus takes an absolutely vicious-looking bump. Attempting a Stratusfaction on Victoria, Trish is launched out of the ring to the floor, landing flat and face-down. With this in mind, along with various other no-disqualification womens matches, you tend to forget how physical WWE were willing to go with the girls at this stage.

 

-        At this moment in time, there were very few WWE performers better at being a heel than Christian. The booking helped somewhat, with him constantly escaping defeat and causing disqualifications, but you really, really wanted to punch Christian’s smirking face, so mission accomplished.

 

-        There’s ripping things off, then there’s the way that WWE tend to rip off pop culture to make new talent relevant. And then there’s the Matrix -style teaser promos for Gail Kim.

 

-        JOBBER WATCH: It’s always fun to see familiar faces get the tar beat out of them before they went on to bigger and better things. An early incarnation of Kenny Dykstra lost out in Rodney Mack’s ‘5-Minute White Boy Challenge’, while a SmackDown tag match featured Aaron Stevens, who would later go on to become Damien Sandow. Or Damien Mizdow. Or Macho Mandow.

 

Highlights

1)     The looks on the faces of both Roddy Piper and Sean O’Haire when Piper rips the prosthetic leg off of Zach Gowen. Piper looks bewildered and physically sick, while O Haire basically gives the “I want none of this s**t” look and walks away. Brilliant stuff.

 

2)    In a match between Torrie Wilson and Nidia, referee Mike Sparks gets involved in a classic (for better or worse) women’s match moment, getting rolled on top of by the two women as they tussle on the mat. Afterwards, though, Sparks jumps up to the corner turnbuckle and celebrates, to a huge pop. Literally the funniest thing I saw during this month.

 

3)    Eddie Guerrero vs Matt Hardy. Not on a pay-per-view, for a title, or given pre-match hype; this was just two outstanding performers in their prime, putting on a fast-paced, hard-hitting clinic.

 

Low Points

1)    I don’t know anyone who wasn’t a fan of Eddie and Chavo Guerrero’s ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ gimmick, and May 2003 is when it really begins to flourish. That’s despite some really rather zany and odd vignettes to help develop the shtick. There’s a fine line between likeable mischievousness and general douchebaggery.

 

2)    Goldberg feeling the need to fit the word “ass” into every other statement he makes. “Your ass is on!” “I’m gonna beat your ass!” It’s a bit weird.

 

3)    Every time Charlie Haas was given a microphone. I don’t want to pick on the guy, but Haas really struggled at this point, totally outshone by Shelton Benjamin.

 

And Finally…

Ric Flair wrestling The Hurricane in a t-shirt and rapidly disintegrating dress pants. And still putting on a show. Vintage Flair.

 

 

Next week on Ruthless Aggression Revisited, we look at June 2003, including unmaskings, Hardcore Legends and Olympic Heroes. Have any memories or opinions on this period in WWE history? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.  

Chris - @OTPChris

 

By Chris Groves 24 Apr, 2017

For my 23rd birthday this April, I only wanted one thing. As an avid gamer, it’s not too surprising that this particular item I lusted for was a video games console. However, it wasn’t the latest offerings from Microsoft or Sony, or that Nintendo thing that breaks apart and modifies like a knock-off Transformer from a Kinder Surprise. No, I wanted something different.

I asked for a PlayStation 2. Released in 2000, the technology and capabilities of the PS2 are, of course, lightyears behind what we can experience on the latest tech. But, as it was the console I owned when growing up, it has a certain level of charm and nostalgia about it that I’ve been yearning for. In fact, that post-millennium era in general is time that I wish I could experience at my current age. Baggy jeans were so in, nu-metal acts were dominating the charts, and World Wrestling Entertainment was a really, really big deal.


After the heralded Attitude Era and the plethora of talent acquired from the purchase of WCW and ECW, WWE had a monumental platform in the early 2000s to kick on from. A pair of unique rosters, a heightened level of mainstream attention and a general, post-Y2K feeling of cultural prosperity and profligacy allowed WWE to have two similar, yet unmistakably different weekly shows that raked in viewers and ratings numbers.

As a kid, I loved this era of WWE, boasting the balls-to-the-wall approach of the Attitude Era, with a refined level of presentation and a stunning roster of talent. So, with the WWE Network’s archive of content now including all the flagship shows and pay-per-views of that era, I’ve been watching them all back with brand new eyes and a more considered outlook.

 

Ruthless Aggression Revisited: The Premise

Each week for the Hooked on Blog, I’ll take you back in time, reviewing all the WWE action from a month of the Ruthless Aggression era in chronological order. From emerging talents to earth-shattering shocks, seductive soap-operas to silly gimmicks, I’ll break down the headline action, followed by some off-the-cuff analysis, highlights, low points and, like every good report, something a little eye-raising to finish on.

While you can decide for yourself when the Ruthless Aggression era actually started (some time just before some rookie called John had his debut , I’d say), we’ll pick things up on March 31, 2003 – the day after WrestleMania 19, in which Triple H retained the World title against Booker T, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels stole the show, and the match between The Rock and Steve Austin was only mildly overshadowed by the greatest match preview package of all time . After almost 55,000 people packed into SafeCo Field in Seattle, it was time to go again on Monday Night Raw the very next night…

 

WWE in April 2003: Roundup

…A night where, it could be argued, the concept of ‘#RAWAfterMania’ really began to take off. While The Rock dominated proceedings, it was the arrival of Goldberg at the end of the show (known about by some, booed by a handful) that made this show a big one, the Atlanta native spearing The Great One to set up a decent match at Backlash, which Goldberg wins. The Rock’s opponent the previous night, Steve Austin , saw himself ‘fired’ by RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff on medical grounds, using Austin’s real-life injury problems as the basis of his in-ring departure. Bischoff also looks to fire Jim Ross for his critical comments the following week, but JR quits before he gets the sack.

What about the titles? The extremely over tag team of Kane and Rob Van Dam won the Tag Team Titles, defeating various members of the ‘Bischoff Administration’, including Chief Morley and the Dudley Boyz . Trish Stratus holds the Womens Title, but Jazz is on the rise, managed by Theodore Long, and she eventually takes the title at Backlash. Kevin Nash returns to try and diffuse the hatred between fellow Kliq members Triple H and Shawn Michaels , failing miserably but putting himself at the front of the queue for a World Heavyweight Championship shot. As for the Intercontinental title? Still conspicuous by its absence.

Over on SmackDown, Brock Lesnar’s babyface WWE title run was under-way after a long chase to win the belt back. A number one contender’s tournament was put together and, despite the likes of Undertaker, Big Show and Chris Benoit featuring, it was a young John Cena who would win the tournament and face Lesnar at Backlash. Cena takes Lesnar further than many expected in a decent match, accompanied by chants of “Let’s Go Cena!”, but Lesnar unsurprisingly retains at the PPV.

SmackDown is understandably making a pretty big deal about Torrie Wilson being featured in a certain gentleman’s magazine, but it also marked the return of Sable and the beginning of a rather, erm, memorable feud between these two. Meanwhile, Mr McMahon appears to turn over a new leaf by shaking Hulk Hogan’s hand after their WrestleMania match, before forcing Hogan to leave SmackDown and “rot at home”. To back him up – and to work with rookie Sean O’HaireRowdy Roddy Piper returns, hosting some rather awkward editions of Piper’s Pit.

The miniscule, yet extremely talented Brian Kendrick (A.K.A ‘Spanky’) joins the Cruiserweight division, ruled by the distinctly un-Cruiserweight Matt Hardy . Rey Mysterio seems to be the only legitimate challenger for Hardy’s title, but he’s too busy picking on people three times his size, like Big Show. That leads to a match at Backlash and that stretcher spot .

 

WWE in April 2003: Analysis

-        The Rock’s heel character around this time is, in my opinion, the best persona we’ve seen Dwayne Johnson put to use in WWE. His sense of utter entitlement and disbelief that everyone in attendance doesn’t adore him is superb. The Rock’s original return a few months previous was as a babyface, but the company used the boos he received for ‘selling out’, instead of battling against them. A very smart move.

-        Nathan Jones, recently released from prison and flat-out crazy, debuts as a babyface. Welcome to 2003, everyone.

-        SmackDown’s focus on “the spirit of competition” works – and it only works because of the emphasis placed upon it by the likes of Stephanie McMahon and Michael Cole, who regularly reference it. Tournaments, long matches, bouts between pairs of heels or babyfaces – it was all commonplace on SmackDown at this time. They don’t always make for a great show, but you knew what you were tuning into when SmackDown came on, meaning you bought into it.

-        It may surprise those who have only seen him in his more recent WWE run, but Goldberg was actually a pretty good character during promos. His comedy segment with Goldust , for example, was an unexpected highlight. Test is better than I expected, too, transitioning from a slightly comedic, skirt-chasing guy, to a womanising bully that’s impossible to like.   

-        Possibly rewarding him for his excellent segments with The Rock before WrestleMania, The Hurricane received a serious push during March. Matches against top stars, lots of air-time – Helms was clearly seen as much more than a lightweight, comedy character. Temporarily, at least.

-        Being a heel GM isn’t the most difficult of gigs, but Eric Bischoff is purpose-built for the role, going full mad-with-power mode at this point. It also helps, though, that he had Jim Ross to work against, who did an outstanding job of making you really feel like he hated Bischoff.

-        Kevin Nash’s return got a couple of good pops to start with, but it tailed off pretty quickly. Nash’s work with the microphone was okay and his physical presence added to a few moments, but he was under par in the ring.

-        On his way to winning the number one contender’s tournament, John Cena defeated Eddie Guerrero, Undertaker and Chris Benoit. Yup.

 

Highlights

1) Jeff Hardy vs The Rock is a pretty great match. There are very few performers out there that are better than Jeff at playing the role of valiant underdog.

2) In RAW’s opening credits after Steve Austin’s firing, instead of taking out the short clip of Austin, a bid red ‘X’ is put through it instead. Just like putting Bischoff’s face at the end of the WWE opening video, subtle touches like that are brilliant showings of that all-in approach to the show that made it so entertaining.

3) Sean O’Haire’s teaser promos before his debut. No, seriously. I thought they were really good and outlined an intriguing character – making it all the more confusing that his run in WWE was basically a total flop.

 

Low Points

1) Scott Steiner. Just… ugh.

2) Jerry Lawler’s heel comments on Booker T’s upbringing and criminal record. It’s obviously all in gest and meant to make you hate Lawler, but it goes a little too far at times, for me.

3) The SmackDown team putting a table cloth and some salt and pepper on a backstage table in catering, to try and signify some sort of mafia-esque meeting between the F.B.I. and Undertaker…

 

And Finally…

Gillberg vs Goldberg. We nearly got the dream match! As part of The Rock’s plan to goad Goldberg into the ring, Gillberg is on hand to poke fun at the man he parodies, before coming face to face with him for the first time. Goldberg throws him around briefly before Rocky sneaks up from behind. Such a shame. It was a close one between this and Josh Matthews’ face as he conducts a so-non-PG backstage interview with Sable.

 

Next week on Ruthless Aggression Revisited, we look at May 2003, including Judgement Day, beer-swigging and three-limbed wrestlers. Quite clearly, you don’t want to miss it. Have any memories or opinions on this period in WWE history? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook . Or both, if you feel like it!

 

Chris - @OTPChris

By Chris Groves 15 Apr, 2017

Did you join the Hooked on Wrestling team for one of our EIGHT awesome WrsetleMania shows? If so, or if you watched it at home (we won’t judge) or actually saw it in person in Orlando (we won’t get too jealous), you would’ve witnessed the annual pinnacle of sports entertainment. Whilst WrestleMania is the culmination of 12 months of anticipation and booking, the real challenge comes when the dust settles and WWE must use its ‘Mania momentum to go again.

To help keep things rolling, a ‘Superstar Shake-Up’ was announced on the RAW after ‘Mania (sorry, that’s #RawAfterMania), with performers from RAW and SmackDown Live switching shows and freshening up the look of both rosters. Whilst only time will tell just how successful the shake-up is, the early signs are positive for viewers, performers and even those yet to appear on the ‘main’ roster. Let’s take a look at four ways the Superstar Shake-Up has already changed WWE for the better.

 

1)     SmackDown Live gets another boost

WWE has been trying for quite some time now to make the SmackDown show a legitimate flagship show once again, rather than the B-show behind RAW. The damage done to SmackDown during the late 2000s and early 2010s looked for a while to be irreparable, but lots of good work has gone into changing the mind-set surrounding the show. Permanently taking it live and adding the likes of Shane McMahon, AJ Styles and the actual WWE title was all in the aim of aligning it with RAW – and the Superstar Shake-Up was certainly designed with the same goal in mind.

SmackDown was at its best in the past when it offered something a little different to what RAW had to offer, but shared the same all-in, fast-paced, over-the-top presentation that we saw on Monday nights. While RAW had the big names and jacked-up monsters in the early 2000s, SmackDown shone the spotlight on outstanding in-ring performers to create a product that appealed more to different sub-sections of the WWE demographic. There have been glimpses of that same dynamic since last year’s Draft and I fully expect this to step up a notch following the Shake-Up.

While today’s RAW is still stacked with talent, SD Live now boasts Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte and many more top-level performers. Even Byron Saxton is an upgrade on David Otunga. A lot of those names pull in numbers (not Saxton), so moving them to SmackDown shows more serious intent from WWE to create two genuinely entertaining shows, which can only be a good thing for viewers.

 

2)     Breathing room for NXT

The second NXT after WrestleMania was a big show for the brand. After the usual post-PPV NXT recorded before the main card on Saturday, the exceptional yellow-heavy show came complete with a new opening sequence, new music , new in-ring talent and plenty of mentions of “The New Era”. The success NXT has experienced over the last three years has not gone unnoticed and it’s clear to see that WWE hierarchy has more plans for the show.

The one aspect that hinders NXT is its bi-annual farming of talent, sent upwards to RAW and SmackDown Live. That’s by no means a complaint or a call for the show to no longer be a ‘developmental’ proving ground the red and blue brands. This was always going to be the case and it’s accepted by the loyal fanbase who, despite regularly picking up the exact moment they’re seeing a performer for the final time on NXT , are very understanding of seeing their favourite stars leave their favourite show.

But, with NXT still on the rise, the show could do some consistency over the next six months, keeping hold of its top stars, whilst infrequently adding to it with Performance Centre rookies and the odd global sensation. Of course, the actual shake-up did include plenty of the NXT roster (Tye Dillinger, The Revival, Shinsuke Nakamura, etc.), but the new look of RAW and SDLive should mean a big-name call-up shouldn’t be in order for a while to come. That means the likes of Bobby Roode, DIY, Asuka, Ember Moon and others can continue to carry NXT into the next chapter of its, ahem, ‘Evolution’.

 

3)     Surprises and shocks are what we adore right now

Of course, one of the reasons those NXT call-ups to the big stage are enjoyed so much is the shock value they carry – and in WWE right now, surprises carry a greater value than they ever have.

Some of the most memorable moments on WWE programming in recent years have not been matches. They’ve not been scathing promos or iconic images, either. All they’ve been is the entrance music of someone we had absolutely no idea was in the building that night. The reaction when Shane McMahon returned in February 2016 was one of the best reactions I’ve seen from a modern day WWE crowd. The Royal Rumble match is now as much about shock competitors than it is about the eventual winner. Then of course, at this year’s WrestleMania, the stand-out moment of an exceptional show was two old boys who were relevant in the ‘90s turning up for a tag match…

Of course, I’m being sarcastic. Anyone in London’s Walkabout Temple for the HoW ‘Mania party knows how I popped like a child finding a puppy under the Christmas tree when Matt and Jeff Hardy walked out at the Citrus Bowl.

That was a shining example of how much the current WWE audience enjoys the unexpected. While telling us a week in advance to tune into RAW next Monday for a big title match is a tried-and-tested strategy to draw in viewers, how exciting was it to be tuning into RAW and SmackDown Live having almost no idea who we were going to see? That unknown element isn’t something that can’t be replicated too often, but doing it so soon after WrestleMania, to keep that momentum going, was a smart way of tapping into a key interest of WWE fans.

Speaking of momentum…

 

4)     Top stars won’t see their momentum tail off

As it so often does, WrestleMania appeared to signal the end of a number of rivalries between talent.

The women’s division of both flagship shows looked like all options had been exhausted after the big show. AJ Styles had basically seen off every SmackDown Live babyface. Sami Zayn had faced off against every big guy this side of King Kong Bundy. Anderson and Gallows’ elongated run to the RAW Tag Team Titles meant they had very much finished business against every other team on the show. The natural cycle of WWE that Vince McMahon referenced on the RAW after ‘Mania had reached its natural conclusion. So, as with most of the great promo segments in recent years, McMahon claiming that a shake-up was needed was a piece of entertainment, doused in reality.

All the aforementioned stars have so much to give, but regurgitating old rivalries and facing off against the same opponent every night doesn’t do much for your reputation – unless you’re Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Moving things around gives those stars a chance to add more strings to their bow, thriving in matches that have more interest on allure due to them being fresh.

Charlotte has the chance to solidify her spot as the queen of WWE by squaring off against new opponents with different styles. Charlotte vs Naomi, in particular, has the potential to be a show-stealer. Arguably the most improved performer over the past two years, Alexa Bliss can put her superb heel character to the test against long-standing babyfaces in Bayley and Sasha Banks. Even those who haven’t switched shows will reap the benefits; Randy Orton, for example, looks set to stay at the top of the SmackDown Live roster alongside guys he’s rarely (if ever) faced, including Zayn and Nakamura. Too many talents get lost in long-standing rivalries. Shaking things up gives the roster every chance (and no excuse not) to further establish themselves.

 

Are you a fan of the changes made in the Superstar Shake-Up? Who do you think will benefit most? Let us know your thoughts.

 

Chris - @OTPChris


By Paul Benson 13 Apr, 2017
We are not the biggest fans of endless list columns here at HOW. Say What? Culture is about more than just endless list articles churned out endlessly. That said, there are obviously some fantastic and thought provoking examples of these type of columns. We intend this to be the first in a semi-regular edition of Ten Of The Best where we will run through what we think are topical and interesting lists. We won't do them more than a couple of times a month so hopefully won't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find an interesting angle. With that in mind, please do get in touch with us if you have a suggestion for any future articles. If we get a good one we will definitely consider it. With that in mind, read on for the first of our Ten Of The Best columns......

The Ultimate Thrill Ride is over and the hangover is kicking in. With such a focus on WrestleMania, it's very easy for everything that follows to sit in its shadow. We are hyped up to such a degree for the tentpole event that it's hard to shake that thick head and enjoy what immediately follows. The Raw After Mania (TM, seemingly) helps. Always a great way to give focus to the weekly programme again but what WWE really wants us to start looking towards is the next PPV. 

Whether that is Backlash, Payback, Extreme Rules or even In Your House, it's very important that WWE can grab our attention straight away and a great way to do that has traditionally been giving us another chance to see some of the biggest 'Mania matches on the slightly smaller stage. Wisely in fact, the whole theme of these post-WM Pay Per Views has been the fact that we will see the previous marquee matches again.

It has been a formula that has been successful at times and not at others. Sometimes it has felt a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' with the magic previously present having been diluted by the diminishing returns of the sequel. Think of how many classic films have been followed by a mediocre and less successful follow up. The Hobbit springs to mind. Other times though we get Terminator 2 - A worthy companion piece to the original match that enhances the overall story and sometimes even eclipses the original.

With us getting not one but two rematch themed PPVs in the next few weeks in Backlash and Payback, we are right in the midst of sequel season in WWE. With that in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to run down the 10 best WrestleMania rematches in history. Often these matches are overlooked or forgotten next to their more famous WrestleMania companions. It's time to shine a light on these and maybe get some of you to go back and enjoy some hidden gems. All matches listed are available on WWE Network.

When compiling this list we stuck to the following criteria:

- Matches presented on Pay Per View only. Anything on Raw, Smackdown etc we haven't included.
- The matches must be on the very next PPV after WrestleMania. This might be Backlash the next month, it may be SummerSlam months down the line, as long as it is the next PPV. The only exception to this is in the period during the original Brand Extension where WWE had brand specific PPVs. For this period we have included both the next Raw PPV and the next Smackdown PPV.
- Matches must include the exact same combatants in the same configurations. Adding a body to make it a triple threat doesn't count, nor does adding two single matches together in a tag team match. Changing stipulations or adding a special referee is fine however.

By our count there are 34 matches that fit this criteria starting with The Ultimate Warrior vs. 'Ravishing' Rick Rude at Summerslam 1989 through to Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton at Extreme Rules 2015. Neither made our list. Read on to find out what did:
By Rob McNichol 06 Apr, 2017
We are delighted that Hooked On's Rob McNichol shares his first piece on our brand new website.

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Did you watch Wrestlemania 33 at the weekend? You did? Cool. You just watched the greatest Wrestlemania of all time. How does that feel?

OK, you may not say it was the best ever. You might not even say you liked it. That does not greatly matter. There has never been a finer example of the sports entertainment pay-per-view. Trust me.

You see, Wrestlemania is different. It is not simply about what happens bell to bell; who walks away with titles; who steals the show. It is about the package, and what it delivers – and this show delivered on every level that WWE would want to deliver in as a live show.

Everyone will have an opinion on the card – the matches, essentially – that will vary depending on your tastes. I thought it was a most enjoyable show, almost no bad matches, albeit a couple that were below that they could have been. It was too long by half, meaning I lost the enjoyment of later matches as I was so tired, but in fairness they probably were not booking to suit me, who had that day travelled for four hours, then hosted a live show for 600 fans in Walkabout Temple London four a further four. The fact that my eyelids drooped a little by 5am was hardly surprising.

You will have your own reasons for loving, liking, hating or feeling indifferent towards Wrestlemania 33. It will likely depend on your fondness – or lack thereof – of Roman Reigns; your tolerance of gimmickry such as that used during Bray Wyatt v Randy Orton; your excitement at seeing the Hardy brothers return; and other matters covered on the show.

For WWE, they have to worry about a great deal more than all that. On their mammoth checklist, I cannot imagine too many unticked boxes offering mega cause for concern. Whether or not a critic gives two stars or four stars to Chris Jericho v Kevin Owens is of piffling significance.

From the outset, things looked good: the set was magnificent; the performance of America the Beautiful was sound; the opening video package was of the usual high standard; even the weather was playing ball, although there were reports of possible storm activity.

“Gimme the green light, cos I’m ready to go...” I keep singing that – I think even the post-Mania Raw crowd adopted it into one of their chants at one point – so that suggests that it struck the right chord.

Throughout the show, as the Floridian evening turned suddenly to night, various tricks of the trade enhanced what was on show. A selection of outfits looked classy, like special one-offs for a special night; fireworks seemed to be timed just right, and for the right people, lighting up the Citrus Bowl and its environs.

The ridiculous length of the stage was actually no hindrance to matters. John Cena made light of his long run to the ring, and the enjoyment he shared as he ran past his other half, Nikki Bella, was genuinely quite heart-warming. Randy Orton was accompanied by a visual viper, spied slithering beneath him from above, while gold-clad Seth Rollins mimicked the Olympics with a flaming torch ceremony.

There was not perhaps as many overly elaborate entrances, although Triple H got his usual hoopla, piling down the ramp complete with police escorts, wife and monster trike. Chris Jericho’s inflatable ‘List’ and light-up scarf were magnificent adornments to his act.

As far as actual match action did go, many matches had added extras, both overt and subtle, that are saved for the big days. Whether it was 47-year-old son-of-a-boss Shane McMahon doing shooting-star presses or Kevin Owens placing a finger on the rope to break up a pin, there were touches that - consciously or otherwise – were pressing home that this was Mania, and it is special.

The post-script worked for WWE too, placing them where they wanted to be. The involvement of Rob Gronkowski, a New England Patriots NFL star, was designed to nab some sports-related headlines. The engagement of Cena and Bella, genuine or otherwise, sets up future episodes of Total Divas, Total Bellas, Total Cenas and so forth, with buzz in the reality world within with Cena and his new fiancé dwell.

What of the legit fighting star? He’s the WWE champ again, having vanquished the video game superstar, who totally exceeded expectations of his return. Brock Lesnar v Goldberg was probably the most perfectly put together match of the night when all factors are taken into consideration, and Lesnar’s pull outside of WWE can continue to draw the kind of eyeballs that flit occasionally into the sports entertainment genre from that of more mainstream fighting worlds.

And then there is Undertaker, bowing out in the most perfect of performances. Not the match, which will not rank anywhere near his greatest ever, but the post-ball antics. The slow sit-up, after defeat, and the placement of gloves, hat and coat mid-ring. No-one has yet said the words “Undertaker” and “retirement” on WWE TV in a definitive sense, but news outlets the world over picked up on the symbolism.

All this adds up. You may not have watched wrestling in a while, but you cannot help but cast an eye when it is Wrestlemania season. When you see Shane, Brock, Goldberg, the Hardys and especially Taker, it draws the eye. You may simply smile at a world you once followed, and go back to your life. You may just decide, though, to cast a glance at Wrestlemania, and you may think it worth checking these fellas Styles, Owens and Orton. They sound nifty!

And what of Roman Reigns? Three straight Wrestlemania main events, a man everyone will have an opinion of, and who will forever have had Undertaker’s last match. Heel turn, push down the throat? Doesn’t matter; he’s a made man. A made man that WWE can happily place on national television sofas, that looks the part and will make non-wrestling people understand what WWE is all about.

The wins go on. Raw, the night after Mania, was raucous and boisterous as per usual, delivering surprises, debuts and returns, but without the crowd hijacking matters and doing completely their own thing, save for the odd beach ball knocking about. It got a heck of a rating, too.

The subscriber numbers for the WWE Network look extremely healthy. A report of over 1.9m folks worldwide having the power to screen all that content at the drop of a hat followed Mania, and although the figure is massaged by the fact that 300k are so on are on a freebie, taking advantage of an offer, it is still a staggeringly good number.

Throw in the boasts of five straight nights of sell-outs, record crowd numbers and record grosses, and WWE have even more that they can tell the world about. Are they accurate? Does it matter? It is still a net win, all told.

And there you have it – the greatest Wrestlemania of all-time. Even better, there is so much scope to make it better next year, as WWE increasingly bring in indie promotions under their wing. As we will discuss on the Hooked on Podcast this week, Wrestlemania is looking more like Edinburgh or Glastonbury every year.

Next year, in the Big Easy? The biggest: easy.
By Paul Benson 02 Apr, 2017

WrestleMania. The time of year when it feels that all eyeballs are on the WWE and the wrestling world. Seldom nowadays is it the best card of the year for us hardcore fans but there is no doubt at all that it’s the biggest occasion. WWE have done an incredible job over the last decade of elevating WrestleMania from simply being their biggest event of their to being something much bigger. Nowadays WrestleMania is like a festival of wrestling. WWE fills the weekend with events and activities such as NXT Takeover, the Hall Of Fame Ceremony and WWE Axcess. Hell, even the Raw After Mania has become a marketing brand in itself. Outside of WWE, independent companies from around the world come to town to capitalise on the tens of thousands of fans flying in for the big show. This year even sees companies like Progress, Rev Pro and WCPW flying the flag for UK companies – it truly is amazing to see every wrestler of any note in one city to be part of the occasion.

 

In mainstream terms, WWE are no longer content with marketing WrestleMania to their fanbase. Nowadays it is incredible to see WWE seep out in to mainstream consciousness, even for a weekend. Every media outlet in the western world seems to touch on the WrestleMania. It still amazes me when I see articles on the BBC website celebrating WWE. Unthinkable even five years ago.

 

Anyone reading this though doesn’t need an article such as ‘The Top 10 Reasons You Should Watch WrestleMania’. We are all going to be watching along whether we like the card or not. Will you be in the stadium in Orlando? Sitting at home with the WWE Network on your big screen? Or will you be among the cool kids and enjoying WrestleMania with hundreds of fellow fans at one of the Hooked On parties in London, Leeds, Brighton, Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Nottingham or Birmingham? If not, if they haven’t sold out when you read this you might still be able to get yours from www.ringsideworld.co.uk .

 

As the first blog article on our new website we wanted to put together our thoughts on the WrestleMania card. Let’s call a spade a spade. There have been better events on paper. It’s not by any stretch looking like a bad event but I think we all would have done things slightly differently. That said, there truly is some gold in there. Some that will provide spectacle, some that will showcase ‘sports-entertainment’ at it’s finest and some that will be flat out damn good wrestling matches.

 

So with that in mind, here’s our breakdown of the card and our predictions for who will be walking out of WrestleMania with ‘the winner’s share of the purse’ (Thanks Gorilla Monsoon)

 

WWE Universal Title Match: Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar

 

Let’s start with a wager: Is this one going over or under five minutes? One thing we can be quite sure on is that this will be the shortest world title match at WrestleMania since Sheamus inadvertently catapulted Daniel Bryan in to superstardom.

 

If you would have told me after WrestleMania 32 that Bill Goldberg would be walking in to this weekend with WWE gold strapped round his waist I would have had you sectioned. But here we are. What started as a quick shot to build up a video game has mushroomed into a well-received and hugely successful return to WWE for Goldberg. The fans have embraced Goldberg on his return and quite quickly that one match became the run that was due to culminate this weekend against Lesnar. Make no mistake, the short interactions at previous shows have been done purposely to not give away the real match that we will get at Mania. It’s classic booking. Make no mistake, we are not getting 25 minutes of catch as catch can here but what we are going to get is a ‘proper match’ where Goldberg will likely finally take those bumps that he hasn’t needed to do yet. The question is, can he withstand the genuinely high impact, hard-hitting style of Brock Lesnar. It’s genuinely intriguing.

 

 

What can we expect from this match? A great atmosphere. Although Lesnar’s aura has undoubtedly cooled, he still garners a great reaction from the crowds. As does Goldberg. Despite a smattering of boos since he won the title, he still has the vast majority of fans on his side who are still enjoying the chance to be part of the Goldberg experience. We are certainly not getting a repeat of the poisonous crowd we saw last time these two met on this stage at WrestleMania 20.

 

Will it be a great match from a technical standpoint? Oh heck no. it will be hard hitting and short and expect Lesnar to walk out with the red belt around his waist. We have a choice with this one folks. It’s an attraction. We can either poo poo the simplistic nature of the match or we can enjoy the spectacle. I’ll be in the latter camp and I hope we get the ‘Goldberg, Goldberg, Goldberg chants’ at out party.

 

WWE Championship Match: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton

 

Another world championship match, another match where I have conflicting feelings. I’ve loved the Wyatt/Orton dynamic since they surprisingly began teaming last year. Clearly it was temporary and leading to a showdown but my god it worked, breathing new life in to both guys on Smackdown. When Orton won the Royal Rumble, a WrestleMania title match felt nailed on, and as it proved when Bray Wyatt won the belt at Elimination Chamber. All was set for a great build into the split and the Mania match and it began as such, bringing Luke Harper in to the story on the way in a hugely successful way.

 

Then Randy Orton burnt down Wyatt’s compound and the wheels came off entirely.

 

Who are we rooting for? Who’s the babyface? Who’s the dastardly heel here? I genuinely don’t know and neither do the audience and that has really dampened down the hype for this one because the audience is confused.

 

It’s going to be a spectacle, of that there is no doubt. It will also likely be a hard hitting, well worked match, Each of these men have a grasp of ring psychology that comes from growing up in the business and we will possibly see involvement from Luke Harper and a returning Erick Rowan. Ultimately though, they are going to need to tell a damn good story to bring the crowd back in to it. The first 5 minutes are critical.

 

Who will win? Randy Orton I suspect. The thought of The Viper in a title programme with AJ Styles is mouth-watering.

 

Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns

 

Let’s get this out of the way first. Roman Reigns is a damned good big match performer. Feel free to knock the booking and resent how he is pushed down our throats (Which he undoubtedly is), but do not knock this man’s talent to deliver on the biggest stage. This year he has been given the honour of wrestling the centerpiece of WrestleMania in The Deadman and if you believe rumours they will be closing the show – the third year in a row that Reigns will have done so.

 

This match is a logical piece of booking when you look at the long term. Rightly or wrongly, WWE want Reigns to be their top star going forward and therefore pairing him with ‘Taker (Rather than Cena which I and many others clamored for) makes all the sense in the world. Reigns has an opportunity to do here what only one man has done before and that is defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania. But should he?

 

Yes, he should. But only if it is done right. Let’s face it, Taker is not the force he once was. The man has given his all to the wrestling business and now it’s starting to show in his work and wellbeing. It truly is amazing that it’s taken this long. The scuttlebutt says that this could well be Undertaker’s last WrestleMania and if so, he really needs to go out on his Shield (outdated pun intended) and give Reigns the win. However, this could easily be counter productive. If Reigns wins a competitive match and walks out after a handshake or a hug with Taker, the crowd are going to absolutely crap on proceedings. This helps nobody. If however WWE uses this moment as a way to give Reigns the heel turn then we are off to the races. It is so, so obvious that the way to accomplish their goal of bringing the fans in to Reigns is to give him a short heel run. It will work incredibly well as it’s so natural. If they do that here, Reigns can turn back when the fans are dying to cheer him (And they will), and when that happens they will have a fresh, elevated, rehabilitated main event act on their hands that crucially will have EARNED the fans support.

 

Come on WWE, don’t waste this golden opportunity. Make it happen for everyone’s sake.

 

AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon

 

Yet again we come to a match that has frustrated many fans with the booking. There is a pattern here. Whilst many fans wanted to see the best wrestler in the world (Sorry Shane but I’m talking about Styles) in a match that would give him a chance to match the spectacle of the Okada vs. Kenny Omega classic promoted by NJPW in January. This match will not allow for that to happen. What it does though is give Styles a chance to be spotlighted in a clear main event match which will have a memorable impact. Shane McMahon is a key player in WWE. All one needs to do is look at the pop on his return last year and see how he spiked WrestleMania ticket sales for evidence of that. A match with the younger McMahon man is a clear endorsement of the exceptional work AJ has done in WWE since joining at the start of 2016. It bodes extremely well for his future prospects and my advice for Styles fans is to enjoy this match, safe in the knowledge that it paves the way for even bigger and better moments for the Phenomenal One. Shane is no slouch even in his 40s and AJ will be desperate to drag something great out of him and you know what? I think he will. This is unquestionably my sleeper choice for match of the night. Do not underestimate what these guys will do together.

 

As for a winner. It has to be Styles. Shane is 100% expendable and has never been a man that needs his ego stroking with big victories. He will know that the value going forward is in Styles winning and that will happen. I can’t wait for this match.

 

Seth Rollins vs. HHH

 

In my view, the best booked match at WrestleMania. Pretty much pitch perfect to get us to a point where many are desperate to see this match and it could well steal the show. It has also been successful in rehabilitating Rollins as a babyface. Something that was well needed after a mediocre run for him so far. This match is likely to be in a similar vein (Although not as epic) as HHH vs. Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 2002. Rollins real life injury has actually been a blessing for this feud and gives them another dramatic wrinkle to play with. Who’s going to win? Hard to say actually. Rollins probably should but this story likely isn’t over. There are rumours of a HHH led faction forming after this show and will one of the guys pegged in that group (his name rhymes with A Rower Toe) get involved here? Bank on it. Like Shane/AJ on Smackdown, this Indy darling vs. McMahon family member has the chance to blow away everything else presented by their respective brand on the night.

 

John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse

 

I don’t care what people say about this, I am bloody loving this feud and actually cant wait for this match. For many reasons. Firstly, the build has been great. Both men have been on fire on the microphone. They’ve been going down the well-worn ‘shoot’ road but in the best possible way. The barbs they’ve thrown have really raised the stakes in the feud and got the atmosphere up to boiling point. It’s going to be pure soap opera (Hell, most of us are expecting Cena to get down on one knee at the end!) but it’s going to be fun and hopefully, Miz’s exceptional work as a heel and level of loathing from the audience will result in Cena finally and deservedly hearing a cheering crowd at Mania. As fun as it is to boo Cena (Because nobody really means it nowadays, surely?), it would be so fitting for him to get that massive ovation that he has earned over the years. Let’s hope it happens. Surely Cena/Bella winning is the lock of the night? I can’t see any scenario where them losing serves any purpose.

 

Raw Women’s Championship Match: Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax

 

This has big boots to fill after the greatness of last year’s multi-women title match. This writer has to confess about having somewhat of a sulk on with this match. I was so adamant that Charlotte would be champion walking in to this event that I allowed my graphic designer (Big up, the talented Sam Ibrahim) to break my rule of not using images with title belts on for our poster for the Brighton party. Annoying! That aside, why did they spoil Charlotte’s well-built streak right before Mania? The title hot potato of last year was frustrating but ultimately did well in serving this image of Charlotte being unbeatable on PPV. Now, it’s for naught and we have a fairly aimless multi-women match here. Who wins? I’m going with Sasha Banks who will head in to a heel turn and feud with Bayley. I wouldn’t put the mortgage on that but that’s where I would take it.

 

Smackdown Women’s Title Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. The World

 

I love Alexa Bliss. Just love her. For me she is right up there with The Miz and Braun Strowman in the most improved stakes this year. She has got a big future and plays her character so, so well. That said, I don’t see her walking out with the belt here. Naomi is the hometown girl and the temptation to give her that Orlando title win will be too tempting to pass on. She’s winning. Will we see appearances from some former stars? It’s been rumoured and they’re all in town so let’s see.

 

US Title Match: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens

 

Team Friendship explodes! Whilst Rollins/HHH has been the best-built match on this card, this one runs it mighty close. The Festival Of Friendship was probably my favourite segment on Raw in 5 years. We are chomping at the bit to see this match aren’t we? Two guys who have clearly steered the ship towards this match will not disappoint on the big show. It’s going to be an exciting, passion filled match that I suspect will be full of suspense for the 15 minutes or so it gets. Expect the return of the more vicious Kevin Owens on the way to him taking that title off of his former best friend. It’s not a happy ending but it’s the right one. Jericho has been absolutely stellar all year and he knows this feud has to end with Owens looking like a true star. And he will. Can’t wait for this one.

 

Intercontinental Title Match: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin

 

This is one match that really, suffers from being on this card. These guys have done really well in building up a good rivalry but ultimately it could never have been enough to crack the top of a card this stacked. It’s a shame and the hope is that they put in a good show here on the undercard and get more of the spotlight that they deserve on Smackdown’s next PPV.

 

It’s Corbin’s time presumably. All signs are pointing to it and the next step for him is title gold. He deserves it too. He’s had a good year and will make a good heel champion. And could we see this as the next step in a blossoming Wrestlemania streak for Corbin? Maybe. You heard it here first….

 

Raw Tag Team Title Ladder Match: The Club (c) vs. Enzo and Cass vs. Sheamus and Cesaro

 

This one is going to be our opener. Very little doubt in my mind. Enzo and Cass are becoming masters of hot PPV openings and the ladder match has also opened the show the last two years. This one seems nailed on. As far as triangle tag team ladder matches at Wrestlemania go, this has massive boots to fill and on paper, it cannot do that. The talent level just isn’t there. If we don’t get any surprises in this one then I would like to see Cesaro and Sheamus take back the belts as I am a sucker for an arse kicking face tag team. I would suspect Enzo and Cass would get the nod though which will be fine and all but crowds are starting to see through their act a bit. Are they more than just an entrance? Time will tell.

 

Could we see any surprises in this match? Who knows. I wouldn’t want to get your hopes up too much though. There is nothing worse than BROKEN promises….

 

Cruiserweight Title Match: Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries

 

What a shame this is on the pre-show. This feud, these two guys deserve the Mania spotlight and 12 minutes to wow the crowd. Instead they are likely to get 10 tops and still could well steal the show. Austin Aries is, well….Austin Aries. His moniker of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived isn’t that over the top. Neville has been a revelation since his heel turn and these two (With Tozawa and Gallagher in support) have breathed life into the 205 Live brand that in my eyes was dead on arrival. No longer. I seriously cannot wait to see this match and I am not alone. Who wins? Who cares, really. Either outcome will be satisfying. I hold both men in very high regard and both have bright futures.

 

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

 

On first look this match seemed quite jobberific. Looking closely though, there is some real talent in here and intriguing possible winners. It’s a shame American Alpha, Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman haven’t had higher profile showcase matches but it is what it is and let’s hope they make the best of it. It’s also been announced that Killian Dain (Big Damo and Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero) will also enter which will please a section of the audience.

 

The smart money is surely on Strowman to win and it’s the right choice. With a gun to my head that would be my comfortable prediction. However, if you like a flutter, my cheeky tip would be Tian Bing. His odds are long and rightly so but it’s worth remembering just how important cracking China is to WWE. It’s an enormous market awash with money and consuming more and more Western Media. WrestleMania will be the first ever WWE PPV aired live in China and what better way to make real waves in the country than have Bing take the win here. From a business point of view it would be massive and with my experience in international broadcasting coming in to play, I could completely see the logic in putting this scenario in place. So in a nutshell, Strowman is my favourite but Bing is my ‘I’m so smug because I look so smart with this prediction’ choice. If he is the second man eliminated then please forget I said anything!

By Paul Benson 29 Mar, 2017
And here it is. Our first real stab at a website.

It's been a funny few years with Hooked On. Very much a hobby project for a few of us, over the last 12 months it really has got some momentum. It's been great fun doing the PPV Viewing Parties over the last few years and we will continue to throw them as long as we can. It is my ambition to do more venues each and every time we roll a party out. This coming Sunday we will be running eight different venues. EIGHT! I want that to be nine or more for Summerslam.

As I sit and right this, we are getting ready to announce our latest project. It's something a bit different, something we've wanted to do for a while and something we hope you guys want to be a part of. We blooming well hope so anyway!

Thank you as always for supporting us. Thank you for coming to the events and making loads of noise. Thank you for the awesome costumes!

Remember guys, as we always say, it's wrestling. Enjoy it.




By Paul Benson 23 Mar, 2017
I have finally decided to take the plunge and add a blog to my site. I always wanted an easy way to share information with visitors and I’m super excited to start this journey. Keep coming back to my site and check for updates right here on the blog.
By Paul Benson 23 Mar, 2017
Anyone can make one:
For better or worse, anyone can write a blog post about anything they want. Everyone has a voice and the best voices will rise to the top.

The writer can show their personality:
In blog posts, the writer has more leeway to add in their voice and personality than other types of writing.

Blogs are a great form of mass communication:
You can help people, learn new things, entertain your audience—the possibilities are endless and amazing. Blogging opens up all of these to a very wide audience.

You can make money:

Get the right blog going and you can make a lot of money through advertising and sponsored posts.

It allows people to craft better thoughts:
Instead of reading haphazard, uneducated Facebook statuses, it’s much better to see people’s thought process in a well-written blog post.

You can establish a community:
Blogging allows you to connect with other individuals who share the same interests. Sharing ideas and opinions within your community helps establish yourself as a thought leader.

Good for SEO:
Keeping content on your site fresh and relevant, you can use your blog to boost the search engine ranking (SEO) of your site and your business.

It brings people back to your site:

If your blog is strong enough and updated regularly, people will come back looking for more and bring traffic back to your site as well.

It’s free:
It costs you a grand total of zero dollars to post to the blog, so if you have something to say, there’s nothing to stop you.

You can establish yourself as a thought leader:

A blog is a great place for your original thoughts, and it can be a wonderful way to show off your individuality. If people like your ideas, you can become a thought leader in your industry!

What else do you love about blogs? Let me know!
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