Following WrestleMania is no easy task: What do you do after the biggest show of the year?
WWE has taken several approaches over the years with its major post-WrestleMania storylines. Sometimes it begins anew with the first chapter of a brand new story that will play out over the next few months. Sometimes WWE simply continues the story, making WrestleMania a more transitional show. Sometimes, like this year with Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena, WWE comes up with a big match out of nowhere (though it's looking like a lot of rematches are headed our way, too).
After the jump, we'll look back at the post-WrestleMania shows from 1995 (when WWE went to monthly pay-per-views) through 2002 and how the major stories played out (Part two, looking at 2003 through 2011, will be posted later this week). We'll also look at how many matches at those shows were rematches, and if that percentage has changed over the years.In Your House 1 (1995)
The big story
WrestleMania 11 marked the end of a chapter in the Shawn Michaels-Diesel feud with Diesel pinning his former tag-team partner and good pal. But the next night on Raw seamlessly transitioned to the next major story. After Michaels failed to win, his bodyguard Sid turned on him, leading to a Diesel vs. Sid feud that captivated us all for months (Note: this is a joke).
Michaels, meanwhile, became a good guy, reunited with Diesel as part of the 2 Dudes With Attitudes (yes, this was their real team name), and began the path that would lead him to the WWE championship at the next WrestleMania.
Owen Hart & Yokozuna vs. The Smoking Gunns: Hart & Yokozuna ended up as champions for most of 1995, though they'd lose the belts back to the Gunns in October after sort of losing them to the 2 Dudes With Attitudes (yes, this was still their real team name) but getting them back the next night on a technicality (don't ask).
Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett & The Roadie (from Ramon vs. Jarrett): Ramon was chasing Jarrett for the Intercontinental title (he'd win it in May, then lose it back two days later) and didn't do too much of interest until Goldust started hitting on him toward the end of 1995.
In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies (1996)
The big story
The main event here was Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel in a no-holds-barred match, serving as a conclusion to the three-year saga of their friendship and rivalry, as Diesel was bound for the WCW (yes, THE WCW). Bret Hart, the loser of the WrestleMania 12 iron-man match with Michaels, took a hiatus from WWE television until the fall of 1996, where he met a fanbase that was starting to change.
The Bodydonnas vs. The Godwinns (Free For All at WrestleMania 12): The exercise-loving Bodydonnas won this battle but were finally conquered by the hillbilly Godwinns a month later.
Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson (from Hart, Bulldog & Vader vs. Roberts, Johnson & Yokozuna): This didn't particularly advance any issues, and the four men all went in different directions after it was done. Bulldog challenged Michaels for the title, Hart took inspiration from Bob Orton and wrestled in a cast, Roberts was mocked by Jerry Lawler for his alcoholism, and Johnson inspired homophobes everywhere by annihilating Goldust.
In Your House 14: Revenge of the Taker (1997)
The big story
Even though Sid vs. Undertaker was the actual (and quite terrible) main event, the real big story was Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart (see below). Sid vs. Undertaker was not followed up on to any significant degree. Sid was gone from WWE by the summer. Undertaker had five-month reign mostly focused on the possibility he had an evil brother out there somewhere.
Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart: This was the first after-WrestleMania-pay-per-view rematch of consequence: by the end of their WrestleMania 13 classic, Austin and Hart has swapped places. Austin was the never-say-die cowboy and rising star who would become a hero to millions, and Hart was the broken man who turned to treachery when he could no longer win on merit.
After those stunning events, Hart formed a new stable to combat the Stone Cold threat, and the Hart Foundation vs. Austin saga captivated us all for months (I used that phrase earlier to describe Diesel vs. Sid, but this time I actually mean it; it was totally awesome and revolutionary).
Unforgiven: In Your House (1998)
The big story
Stone Cold's main-event story with Michaels ended when the Heartbreak Kid went away after WrestleMania 14, so Austin moved on to his storied rivalry with Vince McMahon and in particular McMahon's proxy, Dude Love, before being summoned onto the Highway to Hell against the Undertaker that summer.
It was a pretty big deal.
Undertaker vs. Kane: This was match No. 2 of about 747 in the Undertaker-Kane rivalry. This one had fire (after Kane, understandably distraught at losing at WrestleMania, set his parents' graves on fire). Otherwise, it was pretty much the same as the rest of them, many of which occurred in 1998.
Triple H vs. Owen Hart: At this point, Triple H was ostensibly the bad guy in this feud, which began with Hart being mad at Shawn Michaels for running his brother out of WWE. The sides changed soon when Hart turned on Ken Shamrock and became the token white guy in the Nation, pitting the two factions against each other and leading to some notable character development (D-Lo ) and a couple of good feuds (Shamrock vs. Hart and Triple H vs. The Rock).
Luna Vachon vs. Sable (from Marc Mero & Sable vs. Goldust & Vachon): Luna got her win back from Sable, because that was an important thing to do, I guess. Sable and Mero moved on to a feud next, leading to one of my favorite dick moves I've ever seen in WWE.
Faarooq, Ken Shamrock & Steve Blackman vs. The Rock, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry (from Shamrock vs. Rock): This was really a transition to Faarooq, the ousted Nation of Domination leader, to feud with The Rock, the new one.
Backlash: In Your House (1999)
The big story
Steve Austin vs. The Rock: This was the first year that WrestleMania settled very little, with an immediate rematch needed after The Rock stole Stone Cold's title belt (and threw him off a bridge). Once Austin settled the feud here, The Rock immediately turned babyface (for which fans had been begging for months).
Mankind vs. Big Show: Big Show turned against Vince McMahon after being berated following his WrestleMania loss to Mankind, so another match between them seemed superfluous. And they'd end up as buddies in the Union shortly afterward anyway.
Hardcore Holly vs. Al Snow (from Holly vs. Snow vs. Billy Gunn): Al Snow's triumph over Holly to win the Hardcore title was a moment that countless generations of wrestling fans will obviously remember (this is another joke). At least it did not involve Billy Gunn.
The big story
The Rock vs. Triple H (from Rock vs. Triple H vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show): Our satisfaction at seeing The Rock vanquish Triple H and be crowned with the WWE title was delayed a month later than normal, as the WrestleMania match was a four-way with a McMahon in every corner. Rock was pinned after being betrayed by Vince McMahon and abused with a chair, so Stone Cold Steve Austin -- sporting a noteworthy paunch amid his absence from neck surgery -- made an appearance as referee at Backlash to even the odds.
Rock and Triple H would trade the title and feud throughout the summer, with Kurt Angle getting involved in a love triangle with Stephanie McMahon toward the end.
Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho (from Benoit vs. Jericho vs. Kurt Angle): Also embroiled in a long feud were Benoit and Jericho, whose battle for the Intercontinental title really wasn't settled in a Royal Rumble 2001 ladder match.
Scotty 2 Hotty vs. Dean Malenko: The issues vary a bit from the Radicalz vs. Too Cool & Chyna tag match at WrestleMania 2000 (Chyna and Eddie Guerrero hooked up immediately afterward) but this is noteworthy if nothing else because it's the best WWE Light Heavyweight title match in history..
The big story
The WrestleMania rematch between the newly villainous Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock actually took place the next night on Raw, and that ended with Austin and Triple H cementing an alliance together and WWE shedding fans by the boatload.
The Two-Man Power Trip story began with some shenanigans with the Hardys. After they were quickly dispatched, Austin and Triple H did battle against Undertaker and Kane (who had dispatched Edge and Christian in similar fashion) at Backlash. For only the second time, the four major titles (WWE, Intercontinental and World Tag Team) were on the line in one match.
The four would continue that rivalry for another month, and that would be followed by the famous Raw tag match in which Benoit and Jericho won the tag team titles and Triple H injured his quadreceps. Austin then transitioned to become the leader of the WCW/ECW alliance.
William Regal vs. Chris Jericho: This was conducted under "Duchess of Queensbury Rules," which was basically an excuse to be silly. While I'm very pro-silly in my pro wrestling, a vicious epic between them would have been fun, too.
(Speaking of silly, Jericho peed in Regal's tea to help set this match up. His 2001 act has not aged well at all.)
Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle: This was an "Ultimate Submissions" match. Basically it's a 30-minute iron-man match handicapped by pins not counting, thus taking away a lot of options for making the match more exciting. So that was a strange choice, in retrospect, even you really like submissions.
The big story
Hulkamania was back, baby! This new story began as Hulk Hogan emerged from his WrestleMania battle with The Rock with the Hulkamaniacs firmly behind him once again. WWE rushed into the title picture, giving him a match with the new Undisputed champion, Triple H, that Hogan surprisingly won (albeit with some outside assistance). But soon the tide of nostalgia for Hogan ebbed, and he lost the belt the next month to The Undertaker.
After his inspirational one-month title reign ended, Triple H renewed his rivalry with Chris Jericho in a Hell in a Cell match, then lost his title shot against Undertaker at King of the Ring 2002, before becoming evil again and feuding with Shawn Michaels.
Jazz vs. Trish Stratus (from Jazz vs. Stratus vs. Lita): Stratus didn't win the women's title in Toronto, despite having a maple leaf on her backside. She didn't win it here, either. (Although she'd fare better the next month in Toronto).
Interestingly enough, this formula for the Mania-Backlash women's title matches would be repeated in 2003, with Victoria in place of Lita. But that's a story for next time.
Our big-story scoreboard so far
New direction: 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002
Continue the same direction: 1997, 1999, 2000