Ever since its inception in 1985, Wrestlemania has always been the WWE's biggest show. And every year something truly spectacular happens, whether it be an epic match, an iconic moment, or the fulfilling of a boyhood dream. The greatest of all time were made at Wrestlemania and that trend will continue for all eternity. Every Wrestlemania has something to love, but when discussing which Wrestlemania is the greatest of them all, you can look no further than Wrestlemania 19.
Wrestlemania XIX featured one of the best cards of all time and appropriately sequenced each match.
A fast paced cruiserweight match kicked the night off with Rey Mysterio vs Matt Hardy for Hardy's Cruiserweight Title. The tide then shifted to big man action, with the Undertaker taking on the team of A-Train and the Big Show by himself. The Divas (during a time when the division was at its strongest) entertained us next in a triple threat match for the Women's Championship between Trish Stratus, Jazz, and Victoria (the champion).
Fantastic tag team action followed the Divas match, with Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas (Team Angle at the time) defending their titles in a triple threat match against Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo Guerrero) and Chris Benoit and Rhyno. The next match saw two of the greatest of all time, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho, going at it in an epic contest. Booker T was out next, seeking to take the World Heavyweight title from Triple H. The "Battle of the Egos" was up next as Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon clashed in a street fight.
The penultimate was between the two biggest stars of the Attitude Era: Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle, the WWE's technical powerhouses, were out next to close the night. No two matches seemed alike and were booked in the right order to keep us excited as the night went along.
More importantly than match sequencing was the match quality. Each match on the card was either good, great, or fantastic.
Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy got us pumped up with fast-paced, back and forth action between two of the WWE's best cruiserweights. Though the match itself was short, the ending was very suspenseful as Rey Mysterio kicked out of Hardy's Twist of Fate only to get pinned when Hardy ducked the West Coast Pop and rolled up Rey, getting a cheap win by using the ring ropes as leverage.
The Undertaker vs. the Big Show and A-Train, while not the best match, was still a nailbiter. This was Undertaker's biggest challenge to the streak yet: two men instead of one. The match was originally slated to be a tag team match with Undertaker teaming up with Nathan Jones, however; the match was changed during the night and Undertaker had to go at it alone.
Not only were the odds stacked against the Undertaker, but the two men challenging the streak were both huge. The Undertaker fought on and showed some impressive athleticism, as he was still in his prime during the event. Big Show and A-Train took the upperhand on many occasions, but at the end of the match, Jones finally showed up and distracted Big Show, allowing Undertaker to hit A-Train with the Tombstone for the win. At this moment it became clear: No one could end the streak. If two of the WWE's biggest men couldn't do it together, how wold anyone be expected to do it alone? This was also the last Wrestlemania appearance of the "American Bad Ass" persona of the Undertaker.
The triple threat match for the Women's title saw Jazz and Victoria play the role of heels by teaming up against Stratus at various points. Even worse, Steven Richards was at ringside, ready to interfere at any appropriate moment. Trish fought back, ducked a chairshot from Richards that bounced off the ropes and struck him and even reversed the dreaded "Widow's Peak" of Victoria, hitting the "Chick Kick" to become a four-time Women's Champion, cementing her place as one of the greatest Divas of all time.
The tag team triple threat match only further makes WWE's current tag team division look like a joke. Every competitor shined in this competition, and the match featured some great spots. One spot that sticks out is when Haas and Benjamin Irish-whipped Rhyno and performed a beautiful double dropkick. Its that kind of teamwork that today's tag division is lacking. Anyway, the ending saw Rhyno hit Haas and Chavo Guerrero with the Gore (despite not being the legal man) and exit the ring, as Benjamin (the legal man) snuck into the ring to get the win.
Jericho vs. Michaels was perhaps the best match of the night. The feud had been going on for sometime now, with Chris Jericho idolising Shawn Michaels (who had made his return the previous year) and becoming obsessed with ending his career.
Early on in the contest, Michaels seemed relaxed and didn't take Jericho as a legitimate threat (Michaels took a few seconds to lay on the ropes and made a few facial gestures as if he wasn't even breaking a sweat). The momentum was with Michaels early on in the contest, until things went outside and Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho to Michaels. The tide turned in favor of Jericho.
Throughout the contest, Jericho used a few of HBK's signature moves (such as the flying forearm followed by a kip-up and Michaels' elbow drop) and even took up a few of Shawn's mannerisms. By the end of the contest, the roles had been reversed and Jericho was now the cocky one, not taking Michaels as a legitimate threat. As Jericho attempted a suplex, Michaels reversed it into a roll-up, picking up the win in an epic contest. After the match, HBK and Jericho embraced, showing that both men respected each other and enjoyed the contest. HBK learned Jericho's value that day, but he also learned of Y2J's devious side as well, as Jericho hit a low blow on a defenseless Michaels.
A "catfight" was up next between the team of Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson and the Miller Lite Catfight Girls. There isn't much to say about this one, except that its one of those spectacles that seem to be a staple of Wrestlemania. Even if one didn't like the match, it served as a nice intermission for fans to go get snacks or use the restroom. The match ended up going to a no-contest, which is fine as it wasn't mean to be taken too seriously anyway.
Booker T faced off against Triple H for "The Game's" World Heavyweight title. Booker had earned the right to take on Triple H when he won a 20 man battle royal to decide the number one contender. The match began with Booker in control, until Ric Flair interfered and attacked Booker T's knee.
Triple H took advantage of the situation and continued working on Booker's knee, but Booker wasn't done yet. He fought back with a Harlem leg drop. Booker came very close to winning his first and only Wrestlemania main event, but due to the (kayfabe) injury to his knee, the "Cerebral Assassin" was able to capitalize with a Pedigree and retain his title.
The next contest, though not the greatest of matches, was truly epic. Vince McMahon, the chairman of WWE, faced off against Hulk Hogan, the first megastar of the WWE, in a street fight.
These two men both made the WWE into the global phenomenon that it is today, but things started getting sour between the two. After becoming a megastar in the WWE, Hogan left for WCW and became a part of one of the biggest wrestling angles of all time, the nWo. It was during this time that WCW almost ruined the WWF, until the WWF fought back and ultimately won the Monday Night Wars.
Vince brought in Hogan (along with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) as part of the nWo to "kill" the WWE, but Hogan soon defected from the group after his Wrestlemania 18 match against the Rock. Vince began feuding with Hogan in a battle of egos, until the match at Wrestlemania 19 was made official: the "man behind the curtain" of the WWE vs. the WWE's biggest star. If Hogan lost, he would have to retire.
The match itself isn't much to speak of, but it did feature a few entertaining spots. The best part of the contest saw Vince McMahon perform an atomic leg drop off a ladder onto Hogan, putting both men through the announce table. Roddy Piper (Hogan's biggest nemesis of the 80's) interfered at one point, but it wasn't enough, as Hogan fought back and defeated the evil tyrant, McMahon.
The next match was Rock vs Austin III. At both Wrestlemania 15 and Wrestlemania 17, the Rock failed to beat his biggest nemesis, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Upon his return to the WWE, the Rock criticized Austin for being voted "Superstar of the Decade," an accolade he believed belong to himself. Needless to say, the feud began right where it left off and the match was made official.
This match was purely for the entertainment of the fans. When I say that, I mean that nothing was on the line and neither a win nor a loss would help or hurt either man. The Rock and Stone Cold both fought valiantly and respectfully, as each man used the other's signature moves. The Rock even donned Stone Cold's vest. Not in mockery (as one could argue), but in respect.
Stone Cold proved why he was the "Superstar of the Decade" when he refused to stay down, even after a People's Elbow and two Rock Bottoms in a row. However, Stone Cold ended up losing the match after the Rock hit an epic third Rock Bottom in a row to keep the "Rattlesnake" down for good. After the match, the Rock left the ring and left Stone Cold by himself. He slowly walked to the back as the crowd chanted his name and his music played. An epic end to one of the greatest wrestling careers of all time.
The final match of the night was between WWE Champion Kurt Angle, and Royal Rumble winner Brock Lesnar. Lesnar and Angle had been at each other's throats ever since Lesnar announced his intentions to face Angle for the title.
Team Angle helped Kurt get a huge advantage over Lesnar during the months leading up to the event, but a stipulation was soon added that Kurt Angle would lose his title if he was disqualified or counted out. Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar met on an even playing field at Wrestlemania 19.
The match was a technical masterpiece that featured many amateur wrestling maneuvers and various reversals. Both men seemed on the verge of winning at one point or another, but neither man would give an inch.
At the climax of the contest, Lesnar attempted a Shooting Star Press, but ended up landing on his neck, momentarily giving Kurt Angle the advantage. Though he failed in his attempt, it was still spectacular to see a man of Lesnar's size flying through the air like that. Angle attempted to capitalize on Lesnar's mistake, but ended up eating an F-5, allowing Lesnar to become the new WWE Champion. Kurt Angle embraced Brock after the match and raised his hand in a sign of sportsmanship to close the greatest Wrestlemania of all time.
Wrestlemania 19 will always be the greatest of all time in my mind. Not only did every match deliver, but they were sequenced in the most effective way possible. This Wrestlemania also marked the end of an era, as Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan both participated in their final Wrestlemanias during this event.
The following year would see the rise of three of WWE's biggest stars of the next generation: John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista. Each feud leading up to the event was well booked and had a great payoff at Wrestlemania. This was Shawn Michael's first Wrestlemania since losing the title to Stone Cold at Wrestlemania 14, and he proved why he is Mr. Wrestlemania.
The tagline for this Wrestlemania was "Dare to Dream." Well, I dare to dream of the day when we see an event that ever dethrones Wrestlemania 19 as the greatest Wrestlemania of all time.
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