Opinion: Why WWE WrestleMania 17 is the greatest WrestleMania of all-time


Opinion: Why WWE WrestleMania 17 is the greatest WrestleMania of all-time

As we approach the 35th iteration of WrestleMania, there will always be a debate around which one is the very best.

Vince McMahon’s brainchild has grown to such epic proportions that it essentially commands a whole week now it has to feel every bit as big as it is.

A look at Houston’s Astrodome where WrestleMania 17 was held

But, what makes a great card never changes. The likes of WrestleMania 3, 10 and 20 are often regarded as all-time great WrestleManias, but here I will explain why 17 is in actual fact the very best of the bunch. Let’s dig into an incredible card:

INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: CHRIS JERICHO (C) DEF. WILLIAM REGAL

These days, Chris Jericho is signed to All Elite Wrestling and William Regal is the on-screen general manager of NXT. However, back in 2001, they put on a really fun opener for WrestleMania that goes a little unappreciated in the annals of the showpiece’s history. Jericho would win after throwing Regal into an exposed turnbuckle – that the former commissioner had himself exposed – before hitting his patented ‘lionsault’ for the win.

Y2J trying to escape William Regal

TAZZ & THE APA DEF. RIGHT TO CENSOR

This standard tag-team match wouldn’t find it’s way anywhere near the card in this day and age, but this did work. The Right to Censor was one of the most hated factions in the history of the business and they had real heat. On the flipside, the APA was one of the most over tag teams of this era and being that they were in the state of Texas, combine that with a decent JBL promo and this match meant something. Tazz is in here because.. well, because. Following a Closeline from Hell, Bradshaw picked up the victory for the babyfaces.

The Right to Censor were one of the most hated acts in WWE

HARDCORE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: KANE DEF. RAVEN (C) AND BIG SHOW

There’s no doubt Raven had a fantastically entertaining run as Hardcore champion in 2001 while the 24/7 rule was still in effect. However, the odds were clearly stacked against him when he was pitted against The Big Show and Kane, two men legitimately in and around seven-foot-tall. What ensued was absolute carnage – most of which was seen backstage – and an extremely fun to watch match before Kane won by jumping onto his opponents from off the stage.

 

Raven is floored while Big Show and Kane do battle

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: EDDIE GUERRERO DEF. TEST (C)

Way back when, the European title was a lower-mid card title that was kind of cool when guys like the British Bulldog pursued it, but by this point, it was becoming rather redundant and by 2002 it was gone. Here, Latino Heat won the match with some textbook dirty tactics and managed to cool down the previously red-hot Test. This is just about as good as Test ever looked and Guerrero is surely largely to thank. Eddie would exit the company later this year to battle some personal demons, but, of course, we all know he would eventually make a brilliant return.

 

Eddie Guerrero after winning the European title

KURT ANGLE DEF. CHRIS BENOIT

This clash is one of the best pure wrestling matches in WrestleMania history from two of the greatest of all-time. Of course, because of the nature of Benoit’s demise, like many other matches, this will never be celebrated that way. Still, go out of your way to watch this classic. Angle faced Benoit and Chris Jericho in an acclaimed triple-threat the year prior and lost both the European and Intercontinental titles in that match. Here, he exacted some revenge for that loss when he rolled up Benoit and gained extra leverage with the tights. Angle has gone into the WWE Hall of Fame and has a retirement match this Sunday, while Benoit committed suicide in 2007 after murdering his wife and son.

 

Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were fantastic rivals in WWE

WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: CHYNA DEF. IVORY (C)

This match is commonly regarded as the worst on the card by fans at the time and that’s mostly down to the quick nature of it and how Ivory was totally and utterly squashed. In order to sell Chyna’s uniqueness and dominance, though, it actually made a lot of sense. Ivory had her chances to shine all during the build to this match when it was suggested that the now Hall of Famer had broken Chyna’s neck. The Ninth Wonder of the World would triumphantly return, though and put Ivory away with ease. This year, Chyna will enter the Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X. unfortunately, she’ll be doing so posthumously after dying of an overdose back in 2016.

Chyna as the WWE Women’s champion

STREET FIGHT: SHANE MCMAHON DEF. VINCE MCMAHON W/ MICK FOLEY AS SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE

Seriously, this match doesn’t get nearly enough credit. The layers involved here are so cleverly intertwined that the end result didn’t need a mat-classic to tie a bow on this rivalry. Shane McMahon was, essentially, fighting for the honor of his mother, Linda, who Vince had woefully mistreated and led to a comatose state. During this, Vince was overtly having an affair with the ultra-hot and younger Trish Stratus. Stephanie McMahon – ever the ‘daddy’s little girl’ was jealous of Trish getting too close to Vince, too. On top of all of this, just six days before WrestleMania, Shane announced that he had bought WCW from right under Vince’s nose. With all of this going on, creatively managed to find a way to make it all relevant and when Linda finally rises from her chair and kicks Vince in his groin, the roof nearly came off the Houston Astrodome.

TABLES, LADDERS & CHAIRS TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: EDGE & CHRISTIAN DEF. THE HARDY BOYZ AND THE DUDLEY BOYZ (C)

Some might think Shane McMahon was doing some crazy stuff in the match before this, but that was nothing compared to what these six men would do in the second-ever TLC match. It was absolute carnage. The fact that Edge and Christian won is merely a footnote on some of the ridiculous spots that played out. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see a match this crazy ever again and it’s a miracle everyone walked out unharmed. The most famous moment in the match is certainly where Edge spears Jeff Hardy 20-feet in the air. Unbelievable.

THE UNDERTAKER DEF. TRIPLE H

The was a Gimmick Battle Royal before that was ultimately won by the Iron Sheik was on before this match, but we’re not going to go into too much detail there. It served as a buffer for the first installment in the trilogy of WrestleMania matches between The Undertaker and Triple H. This slogfest would go into the crowd and be a real war of attrition until ‘Taker would finish off The Game with the ‘last ride’ and extend his WrestleMania record to 9-0, a record that is now 24-2. Nobody would dispute that these two men are among the greatest ever and as good as this match was, it can barely hold a candle to the two classics they would go on to have.

Undertaker turns Triple H’s own sledgehammer on him

NO DISQUALIFICATION WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN DEF. THE ROCK (C)

Many fans – including I – would cite this as the greatest rivalry in WWE history and certainly the most lucrative. This was the second meeting of three on the Grandest Stage of Them All for Austin and Rock and to headline three WrestleManias – they were the actual main event of 15 and 17, not 19 – is something that may never be replicated. The electricity ahead of this bout was something the business had never seen before and the promo video the WWE produced on it is commonly regarded as the greatest promo package ever.

Everything fit just right, but for a lot of fans, the ending did not. With Austin unable to put The Rock away no matter what he did, he did a deal with the devil Vince McMahon and turned heel. After brutalising The Rock with a chair over and over again, Austin won back his WWE title and moved to 2-0 over The Rock at WrestleMania. Two of the the biggest stars in the history of the business showed exactly why they are just that. Austin retired after their third meeting in 2003 and is now a Hall of Famer while The Rock continues to make sporadic appearances while concentrating on his Hollywood career.


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