WrestleMania 19 from March 30, 2003, at Safeco Field in Seattle with 54,097 in attendance
WrestleMania 19 took place from a picturesque, perfectly-lit and spaced out Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington and that absolutely helps this show standout. I truly love the set for WrestleMania 19, and it's one of the things that most often gets overlooked by today's fans. The one thing I was thinking about heading in to watch this one was the debate on whether this show was overrated or underrated. My good friend and That's So Braven correspondent Matt Durr hates this show, I lowkey love it but totally get where he's coming from at the same time.
After watching the show originally from March 30, 2003, with an announced attendance of 54,097, I definitely see both sides of the argument and actually tend to stay on the favorable side of things regarding the show headlined by Brock Lesnar-Kurt Angle, Mr. McMahon-Hulk Hogan and The Rock-Stone Cold Steve Austin III. The low sides of this show are very low, but the high spots are very high and filled with gooey nostalgia and real-life tension.
Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, in the latter's WrestleMania since XIV, absolutely stole the show in a passionate, masterful display of how professional wrestling storytelling can look when done right. The story here is simple:
Chris Jericho, "I used to look up to you and try to emulate myself after your work, but I don't like or respect you now."
Shawn Michaels, "I can still do this, right?"
This match makes this show a positive all on its own in my eyes, and yes, that's how good it is.
While maybe not living up to the hype of the underrated GOAT darling of WrestleManias like it does to so many, this card is still loaded with some fun, ridiculous crap that I couldn't help but smile at and enjoy when compared to the other shows.
Outside of the aforementioned matches, Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio opened the show for the Cruiserweight championship, Undertaker took on the Big Show and A-Train because Nathan Jones, Trish, Jazz and Victoria did things, Stevie Richards hit himself with a chair, Team Angle, Los Guerreros, and Benoit and Rhyno did a triple threat tag, and HHH defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Booker T.
Favorite moments and matches
My favorite moment of this show, and just the most badass memory, is when Chris Jericho successfully tunes up the band and hits Shawn Michaels with a perfectly placed Sweet Chin Music. This is such a dick move by Jericho, to put it simply, and just matches up with the storyline here so well. Jericho is someone who emulated Michaels but has lost all respect for him now. So, why wouldn't he try and beat Mr. WrestleMania with his own finishing move in his return to the show? That match is painfully underrated too often forgotten, and should be the definition of what a 5-star match is in professional wrestling.
Not only did the action tell a beautiful story, but it was an attraction within itself considering that Mr. WrestleMania was back on the grandest stage in a match that many would have thought not possible as recent as a year before this show. HBK had been out of action since WrestleMania 14, but made his return earlier in the year at SummerSlam in a program with HHH. The two continued that rivalry for months after Michaels won the World Heavyweight Title in the first Elimination Chamber at Survivor Series, but then dropped it at the next show in a Three Stages of Hell match.
Enough of all that stuff, because the match was fantastic start to finish as it started slow and methodical before turning a little nasty and eventually much more intense. Shawn was rocking the old-school Heartbreak Kid tights -- THAN GOD -- and he was back and better than ever even with his broken confetti entrance cannon. After the bell, Jericho took the match to the next level with his antics in applying the Walls of Jericho to Shawn on the outside, hitting him with the Sweet Chin Music and taunting him every step of the way. Just when it looks like the young gun is going to finally end it, the wily vet rolls him up for the win. After the match, Jericho sets the stage for a rivalry in the future when he fakes Shawn out with the handshake only to kick him right in the nuts.
HHH and Booker T was highlighted by the fact that these guys worked their asses off in a hard-hitting, crisp match that was overshadowed by the controversial focus of the story/promos/commentary. More on that below in the not good section. The tag team match with Team Angle, Los Guerreros, and Benoit and Rhyno is a very solid quick change of pace contest with a lot of solid action. Nothing crazy, made sense with Team Angle looking strong and retaining in critter fashion. Eddie and Benoit would be world champions by the end of the next year's WrestleMania, so that's neat (before Benoit murdered his family). Trish, Victoria and Jazz wasn't terrible. Rey and Matt Hardy opened the show in solid fashion, with Matt Hardy winning in heel fashion by rolling Rey up with the ropes. Solid, fun action and Rey looked good as hell as he was about to BURST through the next level in the next three years.
While Rock/Austin III might have been the pair's worst of their WrestleMania trilogy, it still marked the end of the company's most famous rivalry and the end of its most popular star. The Rock had done absolutely everything in the WWF/E, besides beat his greatest rival in Stone Cold at WrestleMania. That might sound like an unimportant thing in the grand scheme, but it's different when you headline three WrestleManias together in five years.
The Rock would win after three Rock Bottoms in what would be Stone Cold Steve Austin's last match of his career. The two shared a moment in the ring afterward with The Great One sharing some words to Austin while slapping Earl Hebner away. The thing that sticks out the most from the Austin-Rock match is the second of three Rock Bottoms, as I think it's just one of the coolest counters with all things considered. One of the more impressive hindsight factors of this match, is considering that Stone Cold Steve Austin was actually in the hospital the night before this show so to go out and put on a solid show and take a beating is crazy. The nostalgia keeps this in the OK section, but looking back on it knowing everything we do now is tough. I like watching this one because Rock-Austin, but I hate watching this one knowing everything we know now. Do you see my continued issues here?
As for the main event, Royal Rumble winner Brock Lesnar and WWE Champion Kurt Angle tangled in a match between two of the most accomplished athletes in the company's history. It was billed as an athletic competition, and the two started off wrestling back and forth, but kicked it into another physical gear when the first hard collision and suplex took place. It's a very simple match, but that doesn't mean it's not good. Kurt and Brock go back and forth, they each hit each other's finish and keep it pretty clean until BROCK ALMOST DIES. I just don't understand why he would go for that spot when logically thinking. Lesnar had just hit his finish but instead of going for the cover, he goes to the top rope and attempts to hit a Shooting Star Press across the ring. Brock is a big boy, and the funny thing is that, that is what saved him. Any other neck in the world breaks on this impact. Thank god he was OK, although, this made for an awkward end and roll credits confetti scene. All in all, I like the story and the hard-hitting action and the fact that neither of these guys died during the match. Not the greatest main event, not the worst.
Least favorite moments and matches
Like I said, the lows of this show were very low. I might have just praised the crap out of several factors of this show, but it had so much dog crap holding it back. In the first 98 minutes of WrestleMania 19, there are four Miller Lite Girls segments and two Limp Bizkit concerts and (!) Howard Finkel introducing Limp Bizkit as "WWE's favorite band" twice. I thought Saliva was WWE's favorite band. This all sucks.
And, ugh, the Miller Lite Girls vs. Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson Cat Fight Pillow Fight does not hold up well. Roll tide and all, but you know.
Woof, the focus of the story and commentary between HHH and Booker T is just rough. It's all based on Booker T being black without saying that. The focus of the story is how unfit Booker is to be a champion with HHH calling him a "common street thug" and saying that, "someone like you doesn’t get to be world champion." This was 2003, and it doesn’t hold up well, at all. Once the match starts after a vignette featuring Booker's mugshot and him talking about his mom dying at 12 and getting arrested, Jerry "The King" Lawler just takes over as the creepy racist uncle.
"Yeah, we want a world champion that has Johnnie Cochran on speed dial," King said. Cochran was OJ Simpson's attorney.
"We went to the mall yesterday and Booker tried to buy everything in cigarettes," King later said. Yeesh. HHH would win after Booker hurts his knee nailing a SICK Houston Hangover with the Pedigree and the super delayed 1-2-3. Why the f*** would HHH take more than 20 seconds to cover Booker and still get the win and keep his belt. He … he was playing the rich white racist asshole and got to win his title defense clean vs a hot face? Not only this, but he hit his finisher that dozens had kicked out of, took 20 seconds to make the cover and still won? What the f*** is this?
You didn't think I was done talking about Brock's Shooting Fail Press did you? He hits the champion with his finisher in the ring, doesn’t cover him and instead climbs to the top rope and attempts a Shooting Star Press. This is a big boy, and he didn’t make it all the way and about broke his neck. He and Kurt wobbled for a bit before he kicked him in the gut and F-5d him for the win and saddest post-WrestleMania championship scene of all time. Oh, and Cole screams "THAT'S THE FIRST TIME ANYONE HAD EVER KICKED OUT OF THE ANGLE SLAM." Insanely obvious incorrect statement. This stuff really sticks with me.
How does it hold up?
The main event does until a giant man is out on his feet in the main event. The Hulk Hogan-Vince match is a bloody mess, and uses it to create one of the most iconic camera shots of last 20 years, and would never show up on TV today. Hate the Vince McMahon-Hulk Hogan match all you want, but that's a match that you should 100 percent book at this period of time when both men could *work* and do the crazy crap that they did in this match. Add in the fact that Vince McMahon delivered a leg drop off the top of a ladder to Hulk Hogan, is pretty unbelievable stuff. There's a reason I'm writing about this match here and not in either favorite or least favorite section, and that's because I still don't know how to feel about it. I loved the realism of the story in incorporating WCW, the steroid trial and other stuff along the way, the match was a lot of just punches, weapons and napping.
Stone Cold vs The Rock III won't do much for the new generation of fans, unless they have seen the first two and appreciate the storytelling and what's at play here, as it's a slow match that gets a little tough to watch at the end. Austin can barely stand for the last of three Rock Bottoms in a row, and it's not their best work and breaks my heart that this was Austin's last match. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the greatest star in the history of the company, and watching him go out this way isn't fun for a fan that lived that generation.
It's a great, probable top five WrestleMania of all time but the Booker T story/commentary/outcome and the pure obsession with TNA and Limp Bizkit's song "Crack Head" just does not hold up well at all. It really brings this show down, and that's a shame because there is a lot of great but a lot of terrible at the same time.
- 34 Days of WrestleMania: How does WrestleMania XV hold up with Rock-Austin I?