This is another Fanpost in an occasional series on significant dates in wrestling history as watched through the eyes of younger Eddie Mac. If you haven't checked out my first such post on January 4, 1999, give it a look. Anyways, I'll be retelling this night as 21-year old Eddie Mac, with soon-to-be 35-year-old Eddie Mac jumping in from time to time.
Also, this is a little long. Okay, a lot long. Hopefully well worth it.
Monday, March 26, 2001. 9pm ET.
Following the obligatory WWF signature opening, two televisions appear in a green room setting. One television has the RAW is WAR logo with a WWF sign on top. The other: Jeff Jarrett with his trademark guitar. And it says WCW. Well, this is bizarre. Cue Vince McMahon as Mr. McMahon, the longtime principal owner of the World Wrestling Federation, announcing that he had bought WCW.
Also in this moment of hubris, he gives a nod to Jarrett's old WWF gimmick as a country music singer. You know the one, that's J-E-Double F, J-A-Double R-E-Double T. Apparently McMahon has a different spelling for Jarrett tonight. Capital G-Double O-Double N-Double E. Gone.
I'm pretty sure he can't do that, can he? Can he? CAN HE?
CAN HE? I AM SO CONFUSED RIGHT NOW!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Gather around kiddies, and I shall tell you a tale.
The Monday Night Wars have just passed the halfway point of its sixth year. But in the eyes of many, the war has long ended. After all, for the last two years or so, the WWF's Monday Night offering, RAW is WAR, has dominated WCW's counterpart, Nitro. These days, WWF ratings often lap WCW's. Some weeks, the WWF's Thursday night show, Smackdown, beats Nitro's numbers. In fact, Smackdown had gotten so popular, TBS was forced to move their Thursday show, Thunder, to Wednesday night. Not that it mattered; Thunder was hardly appointment television. And lately, Nitro has been skippable too. So have WCW's PPVs: from Starrcade 1997 (for the young folks, Starrcade was WCW's Wrestlemania and actually predates Mania by about 15 months) to that same event in 2000, an incredible 95% of their PPV audience has been lost (as in one in twenty homes that ordered Starrcade in 1997 ordered Starrcade 2000. Really the only comparison I can make to this is what the WWF themselves would feel a few months later. The XFL went from the most watched show on Saturday night in its debut week to the least-watched show in the history of primetime television). The many missteps that plagued WCW both on- and off-camera have come to haunt them in a way no one had imagined.
Operating at a huge loss in 2000 (as in $62 million in the red, or about $85 million in today's dollars), World Championship Wrestling, part of the Turner multimedia conglomerate since the late 1980s, was now on the chopping block with the merger of Internet provider America Online and media giant Time Warner (of which Turner was a part of). This time, nothing could be done to save Ted Turner's baby, though it wasn't for a lack of trying. Fusient Media Ventures and Eric Bischoff attempted to buy WCW, but one of its primary backers backed out during the process. While trying to get a new deal together, Jamie Kellner, new head of Turner Broadcasting, abruptly cancelled all wrestling programming on TBS and TNT. Without a television deal, WCW was dead to rights, and the WWF swooped in and bought its biggest competition on March 23, 2001, just nine days before their seventeenth annual Wrestlemania PPV. With North America's #3 promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling not having run a show in over two months and buried in debt themselves (in fact, they'd file for bankruptcy two weeks later), the WWF had suddenly become the only game in town.
Just like that, the Monday Night Wars were officially over. March 26 would be a funeral for WCW, their suddenly final show being their annual Spring Breakout special from Panama City, Florida. A thousand miles away in Cleveland, Ohio, the WWF was set to take their well-deserved victory lap. Hopefully, they haven't forgotten that there's a matter of Wrestlemania to prepare for.
Oh, if you're wondering, "Angel" by Shaggy is the top song in the Billboard Hot 100, Spy Kids was the #1 movie in America, and gas was $1.54. And happy 41st birthday Baby from Dirty Dancing. Nobody puts you in the corner, honey.
One more side nugget: I'll be watching the best available version of the last Nitro on Youtube, then watch the WWE Network version of RAW from the same night. All times are approximate.
8pm. The WCW bird pooping logo swoops in for the last time. Vince McMahon is on my TV. What the hell is going on here? I'm pretty sure I'm watching Nitro. 40 seconds in, there's the Nitro logo. Vince McMahon announces that he bought WCW and the very fate of it is in his hands. (For the unaware, as many were before the show hit the air, on March 23, McMahon bought WCW's trademarks and properties and 24 wrestler's contracts for just $2.5 million, a far cry from what the company was once worth. Losing over $62 million in its final full year of operation, the company became expendable when AOL and Time Warner merged. Combine that with the new Turner programming executive deciding that wrestling wasn't a part of their new direction, and WCW was easy pickings for the WWF. WWF soon after bought their vast tape library for $1.7 million, making the total purchase just $4.2 million, or less than half of Kobe Bryant's salary for the 2000-01 NBA season. A major fall for a company that once was making more money than any wrestling company ever.
8:01pm. The Nitro opening that quite frankly, I could do with a little effort using Sony Vegas. But here's the thing. My video editing efforts are amateurish at best. I should not be able to replicate that opening with minimal effort. And God, Nitro's last theme was AWFUL. Never let it be forgotten that WWF's production team is absolutely God tier.
8:02pm. Not sure if Nitro or Wrestlemania. Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson on the call pondering their futures (spoiler: they don't have much of one). WCW's final resting place is Boardwalk Beach Resort in Panama City, Florida (it still exists, by the way). It's a "Night of Champions" special, where all of WCW's titles will be defended one last time, highlighted by a US-World title unification match.
8:04pm. Out first is WCW President and multi-time world champion Ric Flair. Other than Sting, who's more WCW than Flair? Still weird seeing him with short hair. Yes, Ric, he did say he was gonna hold WCW in the palm of his hand. Yes, yes, all yes. All that in the palm of his hands. (Side nugget: Ric Flair would be a WWF employee following November's Survivor Series). I know you have to pump up WCW as the greatest company in the world because that's your job. But anyone that's been paying attention knows that this is a lie. Hell, some would argue that ECW was ahead of WCW.) It's some of those boys (nearly all of whom are NOT there this evening) that are the reason the company's in the damn shape its in. Just saying. Ric Flair calls out Sting for one last bout tonight.
8:11pm. YOU'RE. You're the dumbass. Holy shit, the title versus title match is next? Bollocks.
8:14pm. Nitro Match 1: Scott Steiner vs. Booker T to unify the WCW World Heavyweight and United States Championships. Um... wouldn't this be the main event? One thing that always annoyed me about WCW is that the announcers WITHOUT FAIL always talked over ring announcer David Penzer. My God, even the WWF quit doing that around '98. Scott out first with Midajiah O'Hearn with the world title belt, followed by Booker T with his United States Championship belt.
8:16pm. WWF cardboard cutout in the front row right as Nick Patrick calls for the bell. Spin kick by Bookah gets two. WCW logic dictates that the US champion is the #1 contender to the world title, but WCW logic (or lack of it) is why this is the final Nitro. Bookah dominates Freakzilla, until a 10 punch gets reversed to a powerbomb. Scott Steiner swung and missed at Bookah's head. STEINER with a Bimmy to Jimmy (belly to belly) suplex gets a near fall. Scissors kick by Bookah, followed by a flapjack, spinaroonie, and the Harlem Side Kick. Bookend reversed to a Northern Lights suplex for two. Powerbomb reversed to a Bookend, and Booker T is new the WCW Champion at 5:11. Okay, this has to be said: Scott Steiner basically beat and retired the best of WCW for like four months, and he gets beat in like five minutes on a Monday night? Child, please.
8:22pm. Every time Schiavone says Mr. McMahon, take a shot.
8:26pm. Vince McMahon buries Panama City and the last Nitro. Take a shot as we see a replay of the end of the last WCW world title match in a WCW ring.
8:27pm. Nitro Match 2: 2/3 of the Yung Dragons (Hayashi and Yang) vs. 2/3 of Three Count (Moore and Karagias) vs. KidSterio (Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman) in a #1 contender's match for the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship. Yes, there was a cruiserweight doubles division. It would have definitely worked in 1996 and 1997, you know, the apex of the cruiserweights? Just saying. Anyways, the first champions were crowned just eight days ago. Dragons already in the ring, and here come Madusa's ex and Matt Hardy's soon-to-be bitch. KidSterio (aka the Filthy Animals) out last. One member of each team in at all times. Wheelbarrow suplex by Yang and Rey dropkicks Yang out, then a somersault senton. Everybody flies on everybody, with Kidman's shooting star press from the top rope to the floor. Yangtime (basically Adrian Neville's Red Arrow) gets two, then FINISHER RUSH! ANARCHY! Springboard leg drop by Mysterio with Moore wedged between the middle and top rope and Los Filthy Animals get are your #1 contenders at 3:38. They face Kid Romeo and Elix Skipper later. Reminder: Ric Flair vs. Sting later.
8:30pm. Vince McMahon on the phone until Trish Stratus comes in with champagne and glasses. Trish and Vince were having a thing. Mr. McMahon mention. SHOT! Recap of the Chavo Guerrero-Shane Helms beef, then it's Nitro Match 3: Sugar Shane Helms vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Chavo out to mostly crickets. WWF sign. Cruiserweight champion Shane Helms with his Sugar Babies with a slightly awesome theme. VERTEBREAKER! It's gonna break your spine. It's basically a rip on the ODB classic "Shimmy Shimmy Ya". I prefer the video version to the album one. Come at me. Also, WWF has the better Guerrero. The youth of WCW. That's rich. 4% bodyfat sign in the third row. Crowd seems to be into it. Sugar Smack then a vertebreaker reversed. Threeversal, and VERTEBRAKER! It's gonna break your spine. Shane Helms retains the cruiserweight belt at 4:39.
8:45pm. After some fee plugs, cut to Booker T, new WCW world heavyweight champion saying we haven't seen the last of him. (He's right. He'd debut at King of the Ring three months later and in his first act injure Stone Cold Steve Austin.)
8:46pm. Nitro Match 4: Team Canada's Lance Storm and Mike Awesome versus The Natural Born Thrillers (Chuck Palumbo and Sean O' Haire) for the WCW Tag Team Championship. Mr. McMahon mention. SHOT! Canadia beat the champs in a non-title match last week. Canadian National Anthem plays as we cut to commercial.
8:51pm. McMahon and Trish are interrupted by that tool Michael Cole. McMahon totally doesn't appreciate it. Cole is worried about WCW's future, while McMahon basically tells him he should worry about his job security. I'll drink to that.
8:52pm. Schiavone and Hudson ponder their future. Mr. McMahon mention. SHOT! Palumbo and O'Haire enter and the tag title match is under way. Actually, if you check the ratings lately, Tony, nobody's pretty much been tuning to Nitro since about the spring of '99. McMahon mention. SHOT! How's about ya call the match fellas and act like you want to work tomorrow? Superkick by Palumbo and Seanton Bomb puts it away. Natural Born Thrillers, still your tag champs at 3:21. And for the third straight match, they cut away from the celebration less than ten seconds after the final bell. They're going at a breakneck pace tonight, like they want to get out of there. Can't blame them really.
9pm. This would be the moment where I flip to RAW. But alas, the Network doesn't work where I am right now, so Nitro Match 5: Shawn Stasiak vs. Bam Bam Bigelow. If Stasiak loses, he gets a tattoo. Stacy Keibler out first, and she's not dancing. (But she would about three months later in the WWF. Had a pretty decent run, then left after her Dancing with the Stars run. Schiavone correctly quips that this whole tattoo thing is stupid, hindsight being 20/20. Meanwhile, on RAW, the classic WWF Attitude opening. (I should point out now that I'm watching the WWE Network version, which looks beautiful on my HDTV, though it's only like 18".) It's sufficient enough for my room. So there. I think my computer monitor is bigger. Sorry, digressing. Two monitors show to begin, one of the RAW is WAR logo loop, and one of Jeff Jarrett with guitar in hand, probably from a past event, as Jarrett isn't on Nitro this evening. Vince McMahon announces for the first time on RAW that he's bought his competition and he's got a major announcement on WCW's future "when the time is right". Jeff Jarrett, however, he's got no future: Capital G, double O, double N, double E: gone. Try again?
9:02pm. The RAW is WAR intro plays and fireworks go off as we are LIVE from the sold out Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Main event is Stone Cold Steve Austin and WWF Champion The Rock vs. The Brothers of Destruction. Meanwhile on Nitro, Enter Bam Bam Bigelow with tattoo kit. Apparently he's ready to go to work the second Bigelow wins. Bigelow's gotta be closer to 400 pounds than 340.
9:03pm. Out comes former WWF Champion Kurt Angle. Announcers are Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, who announces that the war is over and Vince McMahon has won. Kurt talking about the big news: he has no Wrestlemania match less than a week from Wrestlemania. The fucking Gobbeldy Gooker has a match, but not Kurt. Yeah, something's wrong with that. Angle claims he's still the best wrestler in the world and he is (factually correct) the only gold medalist in WWF history. Bigelow has Stasiak beat, but Stacy with the distraction. Greetings from Asbury Park reversed into the Hangman's Noose. Stasiak wins in just 83 seconds. Repeat: Shawn Stasiak just beat a former Wrestlemania main eventer in 83 seconds. Enter William Regal pimping out the Wrestlemania X-Seven jersey. Regal and McMahon bury WCW.
9:06pm. Enter Chris Benoit in a sweet Wrestlemania X-Seven baseball jersey. I want one. Chris also does not have an opponent for Wrestlemania, just like Kurt. Chris seems annoyed at Kurt. Chris is annoyed at Kurt. And he wants to make Angle tap like a bitch. Kurt dares Chris to prove him wrong while running down Canada and their Olympic team. Angle vs. Benoit is on for Wrestlemania. They throw hands until Benoit reverses an anklelock to a crossface, and Angle taps. Edge and Christian do a number on Benoit and head for higher ground.
9:10pm. Cut to Diamond Dallas Page via satellite reacting to the news of WCW being bought. A short list of major WCW names that were NOT at the final show: Page, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Goldberg, Jeff Jarrett. Nearly all of WCW's biggest players are no-shows. DDP thanks the fans and stuff. DDP is cool people. Period.
9:11pm. Vince wastes no time in running down WCW talent as he enjoys a drink with the voluptuous Trish Stratus. Vince is chitchatting with Triple H and Stephanie, who are "on vacation".
9:12pm. A champions' montage saluting many WCW and NWA champions past and present. Methinks this would have opened the show were it not for McMahon. So many feels though.
9:14pm. Coming out of commercial, we see the lovely Debra with frosted-tip Michael Cole in that same Wrestlemania X-Seven baseball jersey. Debra is asked if Stone Cold and The Rock can coexist, and Debra pretty much no commented. That pretty much should answer it. Cut to RAW Match 1: Tazz vs. Val Venis in a lumberjack match. Right to Censor and the APA are the lumberjacks. Lilian Garcia got one of those baseball jerseys too. So do the APA, though their sleeves are cutoff. Tazzmission on Val, but the Steven Kick KO's Tazz, and it's anarchy on the outside. Val Venis bricks on the Money Shot, and Tazz hits a Northern Lights Suplex, and the Human Suplex Machine is your winner in just 52 seconds.
9:16pm. McMahon on the phone. It's almost time. McMahon reference. SHOT! Highlights of the three-team #1 contender's match for the cruiserweight tag titles. Enter Elix Skipper for Nitro Match 6: Kid Romeo and Elix Skipper versus The Filthy Animals for the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship. McMahon reference. SHOT! Schiavone buries Regal saying WCW had to do some crazy things including put his ass over on TV. (And that clinched Schiavone guaranteeing his unemployment, I bet). Fuck you, Schiavone. If I see you on the street, I'll say it to your face. (Sorry, bitter Eddie Mac moment. Moving on.)
9:17pm. Cut backstage to Mr. McMahon, Trish, and William Regal in that baseball jersey (if you're scoring at home, that makes it seven people with that Wrestlemania X-Seven baseball jersey since this episode's started. Product placement much?) Regal leaves to get ready for his match. Strawberries, whipped cream, and Trish. I'm in heaven right now. Sweet Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex by Skipper, but only two. Skipper looking for the Play of the Day, but it's reversed to the Kid Crusher (his version of Le Unprettier) and The Filthy Animals are your new cruiserweight doubles champs at 4:43. (The belts probably wouldn't have come over post-merger, but Mysterio sitting out until the summer of 2002 made sure of that, so Kidman and Mysterio are the last cruiserweight tag champs.) Eight days after the belts are born, they're dead. Wonder if Kidman still has his belt like Rey still has.
9:22pm. Commercial for the XFL, followed by a Wrestlemania classic moment: Pete Rose getting chokeslammed by Kane and stinkfaced by Rikishi from Wrestlemania 2000. Doink brah is in the crowd! He's gonna be in the Wrestlemania Gimmick Battle Royal. Side nugget: Corporal Kirschner is on the graphic, but was not on the show. RAW Match 2: William Regal versus a Holly to be determined. Regal is challenging Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental title. And he too wants to address WC...Fields, who once said the only cure for insomnia is sleep. And the only prescription is more cowbell. Or something like that. Sting's here and he's psyched and ready for Flair. The only thing's for sure about Sting is that nothing's for sure. Except when Vince backs up the Brinks truck, eventually you must sign on the line that is dotted. Enter Crash Holly, WCW light heavyweight champion, and cousin Molly. Apparently the Holly to be determined was Molly Holly. STF by Regal on Molly, followed quickly by an STF on Crash, and DOINK BRAH! jumps in the ring, and Regal gets the DQ victory in just 28 seconds. Then DOINK BRAH! with the...Walls of Jericho? What gives? Making commissioners tap out, brah? I know Doink was technically sound, but wow. As it turns out, DOINK BRAH! was Y2J himself. Cut backstage to Vince and Trish watching tape of Dustin Rhodes, who was once known as Goldust while McMahon gawks at Trish's boobs.
9:28pm. McMahon reference. SHOT! Mr. McMahon walks down a hall of the Gund Arena in Cleveland. Simulcast on TNN and TNT in moments, probably following this, the final match in the history of WCW, Nitro Match 7: Ric Flair versus Sting. So....many...feels. Ric Flair in his classic blue robe and a Nitro shirt. Commercial before Sting's entrance.
9:30pm. Replay of Regal tapping out the Hollys when Chris "Doink" Jericho jumps in the fray and taps out Jericho with the Walls of Doink. Or something. Jonathan Coachman (in Wrestlemania baseball jersey) with William Regal, and Regal announces Chris Jericho versus The Big Show is set for later. Cut to TEAM ECK (Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle) in the locker room and Kurt trying to tell us all that he really wasn't tapping out. Yes, you were. TEAM ECK versus The Hardy Boyz and Chris Benoit is set for later. Edge tells Christian to get the "you know what". The "you know what" is Rhino. Wait.. Rhino? You're the current ECW Champion, and you're on Monday Night RAW. What gives? A quick aside for a story.
January 13, 2001: less than a week after what would be ECW's final PPV, Guilty as Charged, they held what would end up being their final show in Pine Bluff, Arkansas (about as far away from the roots of the original ECW as you can get). With the company under insurmountable debt thanks in part to Paul Heyman's history of bad accounting and lack of a television deal (which they haven't had since they were abruptly pulled from TNN, now Spike TV back in October), ECW was forced to cancel its March PPV and essentially cease all operations. In fact, Paul Heyman, the ECW owner, made his debut on WWF programming the previous month. If that wasn't an indication of ECW's grim future, I don't know what was. Anyways, Rhino was the last ECW champion, wrestling in the third to last match in company history, a successful title defense against Spike Dudley (the last two were a split between Justin Credible and Sandman). With WCW's future looking grim as well, many had to seek their wrestling opportunities under Vince McMahon's WWF or on the independent circuit. Here's Rhino taking Option A, just a week before Wrestlemania.
Rhino shakes Kurt Angle's hand and says he'll bleed for him. BLEED FOR HIM. Kurt questions his intelligence, but loves his intensity.
Following a brief discussion and a promo for the Wrestlemania X-Seven main event set to Limp Bizkit's "My Way", we get highlights of the previous Thursday's sit down interview with JR, Austin and The Rock. Interview was quite contentious and they both think they other's being a heelish cunt. Or something. And they're gonna bring the best at the other. And there can be only one WWF Champion. The other will lose his head. Or something.
9:33pm. Boardwalk Beach Resort darkens as Metallica plays in the Franchise of WCW, Sting. Mr. McMahon reference. SHOT! WCW born, WCW bred, and tonight, he's WCW dead. Wait, you sure, Hudson? Flair and Sting started it on Nitro? (Checking: as it turns out, Flair versus Sting was on the first Nitro. They were the semi-main event to Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba Rogers.) The whole Flair-Sting history. So much history. FEELS, BRO. (Sting versus Flair went 45 minutes against Wrestlemania IV.) Conveniently, they don't mention how Clash of the Champions failed something hard against Wrestlemania V.
9:37pm. Jonathan Coachman with the second Debra interview of the night. Coach wants to know if Stone Cold and The Rock can coexist, and well, Debra was no more open than the first time she answered. Cut to Mr. McMahon and the beautiful Trish, with Vince saying it's time to address the people. But first, a quick kiss from Trish. It's a Flair-Sting match, so if you've seen one, you've seen them all. But they brought it. It ends with a superplex, and a Sting submission win via scorpion deathlock at 7:17. They hug it out as we cut to...
9:44pm. Enter Vince McMahon, WWF and now WCW owner. Paul Heyman: "Alexander the Great sat on a great rock and cried, for he had no worlds left to conquer." That's where Vince sits on the evening of March 26. His biggest competition has been beaten and bought out, and their other biggest threat hasn't done a show in months and have basically quit on their shield. There's no question now that Vince McMahon is the supreme leader of sports entertainment. Vince McMahon demands Lilian Garcia announce him again. Take two: enter Vince McMahon, WWF and now WCW owner.
9:45pm. ...THE SIMULCAST. Vince McMahon is on Nitro. Actually, he's at RAW at the Gund Arena in Cleveland. He's announced what we pretty much all know now: he's bought WCW, and he intends to sign the documents closing the sale live on PPV this Sunday at Wrestlemania X-Seven. And Ted Turner's gonna be there and everything. Oh, it should be worth mentioning that Vince will be fighting his son Shane at Mania. Family fun for all! So...what to do with WCW? He who laughs last and so forth and so on. So, who do we get for the new WCW? Hulk Hogan? Seemingly yes. (See you in 11 months.) Lex Luger? Looks like a no. (And it was a no.) Buff Bagwell? Seemingly a big yes from the ladies mostly. (Got one shot a little over three months later and he blew it). Booker T? Yes.(See you in three months.) Scott Steiner? Sounds like a yes. (See you in a year and a half.) Sting? Sure. (See you soon. Maybe. Hopefully. He would spend a few years at WCW's spiritual successor, TNA.) Goldberg? Hell yes. (See you in two years.) Vince buries WCW and everyone it and promises it will stay buried. "No Chance in Hell" hits and Shane's tron plays. But Shane's not in Cleveland. He's in Panama City at Nitro. What. The. Fuck. Audio is like two seconds out of sync. Shane's in a WCW ring. Seriously, Shane. Why? As it turns out, the WCW-WWF deal is finalized. Signed, Shane McMahon, new owner of WCW. Yikes. Vince looks like he's about six seconds from getting violently ill. A plug for tonight's RAW main event tag between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock and the Brothers of Destruction, followed by a 30-second promo for Wrestlemania X-Seven and we're out. The last seventeen minutes of WCW on the Turner networks was basically an ad for Wrestlemania. (Side nugget: I don't recall the last Nitro ever being replayed. If I'm wrong on this, let me know.)
10:02pm. Replay of Vince McMahon's purchase of WCW...oops. Turns out Shane bought it. My bad, fella. Oh, it should be worth pointing out again that Shane and Vince McMahon are gonna fight this Sunday at Wrestlemania. This night just got a whole lot weirder, didn't it? Paul: "After all these years, it's not Vince McMahon that screws Vince McMahon; it's Shane McMahon that screws Vince McMahon." Cut to Vince on the phone with attorneys, and he sounds pissed.
10:04pm. RAW Match 3: The Hardys (with the beautiful Lita; Wrestlemania jersey count is now 9) and Chris Benoit versus TEAM ECK in a six-man tag team match. Earlier replay of Kurt Angle tapping out to the Crippler Crossface before Edge and Christian beat the tar out of Benoit. Replay of the previous Smackdown where Rhino made his WWF debut GORING the snot out of Spike Dudley. It's anarchy early. Matt Hardy and Edge the first two legal men. Double suplex by the Hardys, then Jeff getting yanked to the barricade. Kurt Angle stomping a mudhole in Jeff, etc. etc. Oh, worth pointing out: TLC II at Wrestlemania: Dudley Boyz defend against E&C and Los Hardys. Poetry in Motion into a Crossface, and Christian tries to fight the Crossface, but can't. Benoit and The Hardys with the submission victory for his team at 2:20. Anarchy again. Suicide dive to Angle from Benoit. Twist of Fate by Matt to Edge, then a gore to Matt Hardy. Then a gore by Rhino to Lita. Rhino is not here to dick around. Lita is down and it is bad.
10:12pm. Snow outside the Gund Arena, as we return from an XFL ad, then cut to last Thursday where Triple H does a number on Undertaker. Kevin Kelly (Wrestlemania jersey count: 10) interviews the Brothers of Destruction. Undertaker is waiting for Triple H to come out of hiding. Taker shows the sixteen staples on his head. Undertaker also doesn't care much for the issues of Rock and Austin.
10:14pm. RAW Match 4: WWF European Champion Test versus X-Pac (with Albert) in a non-title match. Surprise special referee, the challenger for the Eurpoean title at Wrestlemania, Eddie Guerrero. Ross smells a rat. So do I. Test with a tilt-a-whirl slam while Eddie Guerrero slow counts. A pair of spinkicks and a running leg drop gets a fast near fall. Not that we need to point it out to you, but the jig is clearly up. Hell, Eddie's claiming back cramps. Tests pops Eddie, and X-Pac pops Test with a spinning heel kick. Pac misses on the attempted title shot. Test with the Meltdown for a nearfall as Guerrero drags out Jimmy Korderas. Baldo Bomb by fat Albert to Test, and X-Pac gets gifted victory at 3:37. Cut backstage to Michael Cole interviewing Stone Cold Steve Austin about tonight's tag team main event. You know, if interviewing was Stone Cold looking at Cole like, "Bitch I will kill you where you stand if you ask me some stupid shit like that."
10:22pm. Jim Ross and Paul Heyman discuss the evening's big news when... screech... CRASH! Former WWF Champion and Commissioner Mick Foley appears (Wrestlemania baseball jersey count: 11) with his new book Foley is Good. Cheap pop aside, I can think of at least 25 places better to vacation than Cleveland, Ohio. Apparently, the recently fired Mick Foley's gonna be involved in Wrestlemania. Out comes Vince McMahon, who is looking to throw out the fired Foley. Not so fast, my friend. Remember that one time Vince went home to be a genetic jackhammer? Foley took over and the WWF was on an absolute high, then Vince came back and fired him right before Christmas. Apparently Foley knew shit was going to go down, so Foley and Linda McMahon had this meeting this one time. And they videotaped it and everything. Cue Linda with a shitload of papers. So Mick signed a bunch of papers while still as WWF Commissioner, like this one paper that says Mick can referee any match at Wrestlemania he wants. It's not Rock-Austin, Vince. It's Vince-Shane in a street fight. Vince looks like he is going to shit his pants. McMahon's night just got worse. Big Show in a singlet to take on Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho in a non-title match after the break.
10:30pm. Replay of Foley's announcement that he will referee McMahon vs. McMahon in a street fight at Wrestlemania X-Seven. Cut to a speechless Vince, who eats a bitter strawberry. Well, they haven't been refrigerated in at least an hour and a half. Time for RAW Match 6: Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho (without the Doink BRAH! attire) versus The Big Show in a non-title match. Jericho gets the quick jump on Big Show, but Show catches Y2J. Big Show fails on the Vader Splash, and Jericho's got an opening. Jericho's attempted bulldog fails. Big Show's Final Cut fails, and Jericho's crossbody sends both men out. Big Show is back on offense and presses Y2J back in the ring. Enter Kane beating on Big Show. Kane will face Raven and Big Show for the hardcore title at Wrestlemania. Jericho with the Lionsault, followed by Regal with the Regal Cutter all while the referee is not looking. Big Show with a chokeslam, and Big Show wins at 2:42. Kane kills Show's back with a chair and Raven (with Mania jersey. 12) gets chokeslammed by Kane. Cut to WWF Champion The Rock asking for directions to Austin's locker room. After getting directions, The Rock introduces himself to the new guy. They shake hands and Rock doesn't want to know what the new guy's name is. Seems he's serious. He doesn't even do the "it doesn't matter" spiel.
10:40pm. Greyhound Overdrive of the Week is Rhino GORING Spike Dudley through a table. Speaking of Dudley, the WWF Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz are at WWF New York, and they are talking TLC II. Cut to Austin with Debra and enter WWF Champion The Rock talking about tonight's tag team main event. After the main event, all bets are off.
10:50pm. After a Chef Boyardee ad featuring the Hardys (and a young Chris Daniels), HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE! Time for the main event: RAW Match 6: The Brothers of Destruction (The Undertaker and Kane) versus WWF Champion The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I've always been partial to the Disturbed version of Austin's theme. And the 2000 version of The Rock's theme. About this match: it might well as be two versus one versus one. The Rock and Kane are the first. Kane taking it to the Rock until Rock hits a leaping clothesline. Rock looking for a quick finish but the Undertaker distracts, and that's the opening Kane needs. Receding hairline Undertaker in. Rock with a few rights and Taker with a leaping clothesline of his own. Both teams tag, one slightly more reluctant than the other. Kane and Rock fight on the outside as Austin and Undertaker fight inside. Tombstone countered into Stunner countered into chokeslam by Undertaker. Triple H appears as Undertaker looks for the Last Ride. Triple H nails Undertaker and holy shit, you guys: Stone Cold and The Rock upset The Brothers of Destruction at 4:46. Undertaker sees Triple H and The Game runs off with chair in hand. Austin celebrates with beer. Rock: kick, wham, stunner. Holy shit. All bets are off again. And Rock's helping himself to some of Austin's beer. And leaves an open Busch for Steve. Ouch. And scene.
I give WCW credit. It didn't look like anyone mailed it in like some may have in recent months (or years for that matter); they couldn't now that their new overlords were watching them. In all, sixteen men and women who were in the ring would eventually get a look in the WWF. Some came later, but only Booker T and Rey Mysterio got world title runs in the WWE. In fact, those two, along with referee Charles Robinson and road agents Arn Anderson, Kidman, and Dean Malenko, are the last connections to WCW the WWE has. Aside from their massive tape library, of course.
As for the WWF, they didn't do anything out of the ordinary other than produce an exciting show the week before Wrestlemania. I can't imagine outside of the jabs at their now former competition, this show would have been any different than the one we got. We all know what would follow: the greatest Wrestlemania ever, followed almost immediately by the biggest wasted storyline in wrestling history. Those are the breaks sometimes. It's lonely at the top, and here we are, more than a decade later, still pining for a viable challenger to the WWE throne. Maybe we should stop waiting. The best any company can be is an alternative to the WWE machine. The reason is simple: money. They're a billion-dollar empire about to get a new television deal with a streaming network that could change the television and pay-per-view business. Running up against that directly would basically be akin to being the USFL bug to the NFL windshield.