There are very few opinions in the world of pro wrestling that fans will almost universally agree upon, but one of those rare examples is that WrestleMania X-Seven is the greatest WrestleMania of all time. It often sits at the top of ranking lists when discussing the history of the event and gets placed on a pedestal as the pinnacle of what the Attitude Era could offer. Plus, the "My Way" promo ahead of The Rock vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is uploaded on social media on an almost daily basis.
But it's still not without its controversy. Many see the main event as the match that ended the Attitude Era, and whether or not it was the right decision to turn Austin heel has been debated ever since (the man himself has openly stated it was a mistake). And even the most adamant of Attitude Era fans can admit that not everything from that time period has aged particularly well.
The event is officially 20 years old today, and to celebrate, we decided to re-watch the show in its entirety earlier this week to answer a simple question — does the show still hold up? I'm not here to debate over whether or not it's the best WrestleMania. I wasn't watching wrestling back in 2001 (I was busy being eight years old, at the time) so it holds no nostalgic power over me, and I think later installments like WrestleMania XIX and WrestleMania XXX both make compelling arguments for that top spot. I just wanted to see if it still lived up to the hype.
And, to put it simply, it absolutely does, though not for any one particular reason. The main event is unquestionably great, but there's such a combination of factors that make the show stand out that, even if you remove the main event, it'd still be a classic. Rather than ranting for a few thousand words, we put together all the reasons the event still holds up. Here goes nothing!
Stars in Their Prime
It's not just that WWE had a talented roster in the first four months of 2001. Today's product has a mind-bending amount of talent, yet Monday Night Raw can be utterly unwatchable in certain weeks. It's that so many wrestlers were simultaneously hitting (or on the cusp of hitting) their stride both physically and creatively. Look at who's on this card:
- Chris Jericho, who wouldn't turn 30 until that November
- Commissioner William Regal
- Radicalz/Latino Heat Eddie Guerrero
- Kurt Angle a month removed from his first WWF Championship reign
- Edge & Christian, The Hardyz, and The Dudleyz
- Pre-"Reign of Terror" heel Triple H
- Kane and Big Show both still looking absolutely jacked
- "American Badass" Biker Taker (your mileage may vary, I thought it was fun)
You take them all, add in Austin and The Rock at the height of their popularity, and it's no wonder why this show is so beloved.prevnext
A Little Something for Everyone
Nowadays, we often hear Eric Bischoff's old nugget of wisdom that a wrestling show should resemble a buffet, in that there's something for every kind of wrestling fan regardless of taste. X-Seven fully delivers on that front.
- You want a clash of larger than life characters? Austin vs. Rock
- You want a technical master class? Angle vs. Benoit
- You want comedy? The Gimmick Battle Royal
- You want over-the-top melodrama (and one of the loudest crowd reactions I've ever heard, take a bow Linda McMahon)? Vince vs. Shane
- You want a car crash? Raven vs. Show vs. Kane
- You want stunts you never thought possible? TLC II
It's all there, and in less than four hours.prevnext
It's not just that WWE was able to put on a great show, it's also that they side-stepped some of their worst tendencies of the time. Say what you will about Chyna's neck injury storyline, but in an era where the Women's Division was still all about titillation, her Women's Championship match with Ivory is still treated like a legitimate (albeit one-sided) match.
Also, the show was days removed from the final WCW Monday Nitro, and while we do get those shots of a few WCW wrestlers up in the crowd, the infamous "Invasion" storyline still really hadn't gotten underway at this point. If WCW had somehow played a bigger role in this event, there's a good chance the stink of that angle might have soured this show in hindsight.prevnext
It is a crime that Jim Ross and Paul Heyman did not get to spend more time as a commentary duo. JR was in his prime and Heyman was the perfect heel counterpart and manages to avoid the cringe-inducing comments Jerry Lawler would often make. The show even treats us to Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan commentating the battle royal and they're just delightful.prevnext
Even though I wouldn't see my first wrestling show until two years later, I still get nostalgic for this era's style of video promos. There's an energy to them, managing to crank up the physicality and drama of each storyline regardless of how simplistic they might be. Yes, the "My Way" promo is still as good as ever, but even the packages for Triple H vs. Undertaker, Shane vs. Vince, and the show opener do a fantastic job of getting the viewer's adrenaline up. Today's promos can still accomplish that, but it's less frequent.
A smaller point, but I also enjoyed how the show wasn't afraid to still have backstage segments sprinkled throughout the night. That's almost completely gone from modern WrestleManias.
It's also worth mentioning how expertly the show is paced. None of the matches feel like they go too long and the closest thing we get to filler is a six-man tag match that has the courtesy of clocking in at under four minutes. The booking team also managed to space the matches out in a way that makes sense — the hardcore triple threat isn't right next to the TLC match and the goofiness of the Gimmick Battle Royal is separated from the main event by a bloody Triple H vs. Undertaker bout. And, in a decision that WWE would stumble over just a year later, the best match of the night is undisputedly the main event.
Also, I have nowhere else to put this, but I love Motorhead performing Triple H's entrance in the semi-main event. Sure, Lemmy botches the hell out of those lyrics, but it's just fun.prevnext
The Main Event
All right, it's time to tackle the big conversation. Was it a mistake to turn Steve Austin heel at WrestleMania X-Seven? Yes, it was. I can understand the logic that went into it at the time, I get why Austin felt like it was something his character needed, but sitting here 20 years later, we all know that what came after didn't stick the landing.
But watching the show by itself, separated from all of the baggage that would come, the main event is a masterpiece. Throughout the night, we see backstage shots of Rock and Austin preparing, "The People's Champ" warming up in a well-lit locker room while Austin sits in what looks like a dark bathroom. That line in the video package about Austin "needing" to be world champion again makes you question just how far he's willing to go to win. The No Disqualification stipulation is tossed in at the last moment, but the entrances start before anybody has time to process it. And as soon as the bell rings, Austin uses every cheap tactic he can think of to cheat and win. But, if you were a fan at the time you wouldn't notice because A) it's Austin and B) the Houston crowd is so overwhelmingly behind him that nothing really registers as a heel move. It's that sleight of hand that makes the final turn all the more impactful.0comments
WrestleMania X-Seven is the gold standard for WWE's biggest annual show. It's not 100% perfect, nothing in life ever is, but so many different aspects converge at just the right time to give the April 1, 2001 event its legendary status.
If you've never seen it, fix that.prev