WWE PPV Flashback: WrestleMania XIX - "A dark horse for greatest Mania lists"

WrestleMania XIX
March 30, 2003
Safeco Field, Seattle, WA

For the nineteenth time in history we have arrived at the greatest extravaganza in sports entertainment, that being the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania. Of course, WrestleMania XIX was the first of the brand split era, and also the first under the WWE banner. As we saw last month, a whole bunch of star power had returned to the company in time for this event, and as such this show had a line up of many marquee matches. In the main event, WWE Champion Kurt Angle would finally be forced to defend his title against Brock Lesnar. Meanwhile, the World Heavyweight Championship would be decided as Triple H would take on Booker T, a challenger who had a fairly low key past few PPVs but had suddenly been thrust into the mix. Also we had a dream match for workrate fans across the world as Shawn Michaels clashed with Chris Jericho. Stone Cold Steve Austin would do battle with The Rock one last time, and in the most hyped match on the card, the two men who started it all would collide when Hulk Hogan settled his issues with Mr McMahon. The event certainly had a major show line up. Lets take a look at 2003's Showcase of the Immortals.

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For some reason we don't see Ashanti kick off the show with America the Beautiful. Instead we go right into the opening video package talking about the importance of WrestleMania. From there we go into the awesome looking baseball stadium that hosted the event for the opening pyro. Our announce teams consisted of Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler from Raw, and Michael Cole & Tazz from Smackdown.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship:
Matt Hardy (c) w/Shannon Moore vs Rey Mysterio

We kick the night off with some Smackdown action as the Cruiserweight Championship is defended for the first time in Mania history. Last month we saw Matt Hardy defeat Billy Kidman to win the title, but he has since moved on to a new contender. That contender is Rey Mysterio, making his first Mania appearance here. After mostly staying away from the cruiserweight division since his arrival in the WWE last summer, Mysterio earned this title shot by defeating Jamie Noble and Tajiri in a triple threat match on Smackdown a few weeks before this show. Rey has a cool Daredevil themed attire here which would kick off a Mania tradition for him over the years as far as his ring gear was concerned. Matt comes out with Shannon Moore by his side as usual. The Matt Facts this month are "This is Matt's fourth WrestleMania" and "Matt often wonders how they did WrestleMania without him". These two men are capable of putting on a great fifteen minute battle, but we get a quick match to open the show here with more important matches to come later. They go right into high gear with the crowd behind Rey as expected. Shannon Moore is a factor at ringside as usual as he tries to interfere on Matt's behalf, preventing a 619 after some back and forth and allowing Matt to hit the Twist of Fate for a near fall. Matt is shocked at being unable to put Rey away, and that allows Rey to build momentum, but Moore comes into play again by putting Matt's foot on the rope to break a count. Rey fires back still and eventually hits a successful 619. Rey follows up with a spring board, but Matt rolls through into a cover and uses the ropes for leverage to retain his title at 5:37. A decent match for the time it was given to open the show and serve as a teaser for future matches between the two. Matt was on a great run as Cruiserweight Champion with the Mattitude persona, so it made sense to keep the title on him a while longer. This feud would take a break for a month or so from here, but Rey would eventually win the title over the summer in a great match that actually main evented Smackdown.
Grade: **1/2

Backstage we saw a limo pull up and the Miller Light Catfight girls arrived. They were celebrity guests that were used in the hype for the event in a series of vignettes. They argued over whether Mania was great due to the drama or the action. More of them later.

Back in the stadium, Limp Bizkit were introduced and they performed the Undertaker's old "Rollin" theme. Tony Chimel introduced them as "the WWE's favourite band in the whole world" which I imagine was part of the deal for them performing at the show. After all, Fred Durst was included as a character in the last WWE Playstation game that had the theme in it. After the lead singer (Durst) rapped his way down to the ring, Taker made his entrance for his upcoming match.

Undertaker vs Big Show & A-Train
We stick with the blue brand which we saw the seeds laid for last month at No Way Out where the A-Train attacked the Undertaker following his win over Big Show. Later that week on Smackdown, Show & Train would attack Taker again, however a rookie from Australia by the name of Nathan Jones made the save. In the weeks that followed, Taker would become something of a mentor to Jones which would lead to this match actually being made as a tag team contest pitting the student-teacher team against the two monsters. On Heat before the PPV however, Jones was lured into a trap as he chased Nunzio of the FBI into an ambush by Show and Train. The ambush resulted in Jones being laid out and pulled from this match. Hence Taker competes in his first Mania handicap match tonight as the announcers play up his undefeated streak being in jeopardy as a result. Believe it or not, there was actually some intrigue at the time that it may have ended here. This was around the time that the streak was starting to be recognised, although in a few years it would start becoming a really big deal. Anyway, in reality Jones was considered too green to go out there and make his debut on the biggest event of the year. It was probably the right move since he'd be sent back down to developmental shortly after this show. As far as the match itself here, its the basic type of match you would expect from this combination. Taker is over as always, and Show/Train had good chemistry as a heel tandem, but you weren't going to get a great match. Still, it was a solid power match with the heels working Big Evil over for much of the contest. Taker has the crowd behind him as he launches into his comebacks, but the numbers game keeps overwhelming him. Show looks to be closing in on victory for his team as he delivers a chokeslam following a Train bicycle kick, but that leads to Nathan Jones running out to ringside. He gets a pretty good reaction as he hits Show with a spin kick in the aisle and follows up by booting Train in the ring. That allows Taker to deliver a Tombstone to Big Show to keep the streak going at 9:42. A decent match considering what you might have expected this to be, but still nothing really worth going out of the way to see. Taker is now 11-0 at WrestleMania and his strange 2003 rolls on. Its bizarre seeing him involved in such a non-important match at Mania in the grand scheme of things.
Grade: **

We go backstage to the Miller Light girls again. They come across Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler. They talk about Torrie's Playboy issue and Stacy's marketing strategies before going off to hang out.

Back in the stadium, we check in with JR and King who show highlights of Lance Storm & Chief Morley defeating Kane & Rob Van Dam to retain the World Tag Team Championship earlier in the night on Heat. They did so with the assistance of the Dudley Boyz to the surprise of the fans. It was part of a storyline where the Dudley Boyz would be blackmailed into doing the dirty work of the Bischoff Administration which we'll see more of next month. By the way, Morley has replaced Regal due to his illness which I talked about last time.

WWE Women's Championship:
Victoria (c) w/Steven Richards vs Trish Stratus vs Jazz

For the second year in a row, the Women's Championship is contested under triple threat rules at WrestleMania. Interestingly enough, the two challengers in this match were both involved in the match last year as well. Of course, Trish has come a long way in the ring over the past 12 months and she's now at the level where she can be viewed as an equal to her two adversaries. We've see her rivalry with Victoria brewing for a while now since Victoria beat Trish back at the Survivor Series to win the title, but we haven't seen Jazz for quite some time. She had recently retuned to action, still with the tough heel persona we saw last year, after spending the past few months injured. The reason this match is taking place goes back to a number one contender match on Raw a few weeks ago between Trish and Jazz. No winner could be decided in that match as Victoria entered the ring and laid both ladies out with her title belt. This would backfire on the champion however as it was subsequently decided both women would get their title shot at Mania. I actually enjoyed this match quite a bit, which isn't a huge surprise considering the talent involved. All three women knew how to put on a solid match at this point and thats exactly what we get in the time they were given. The crowd were of course behind Trish as she was really established as the face of the division at this time. Victoria has had a solid, although uneventful reign, but it was time to give the title back to Trish to set up new feuds in the division. All three ladies got good nearfalls throughout the course of the match, and Victoria actually went for an impressive moonsault which failed to connect on Jazz. Towards the end of the match, Stevie attempts to interfere on Victoria's behalf, but he ends up taking himself out with an errant chair shot to the ropes. As Victoria regains her composure, Trish strikes with a Chick Kick to the champion, and she picks up the victory at 7:17. Solid stuff from what was becoming quite the decent women's division.
Grade: **3/4

Up next we go backstage to Jonathan Coachman, who is standing by with The Rock. Rock talks about the people turning on him and says he doesn't care about the people. What he does care about is beating Austin to end the greatest rivalry the business has ever seen. We gets a great line to close as he says "if there's anything that Hollywood has taught me, its Act 1 and Act 2, they don't matter - the only thing that matters is Act 3". Awesome heel promo. You could see the emotion in the Rock's eyes as well, perhaps knowing this might have been his last major Mania. It wouldn't turn out that way, but his stops with the WWE to pursue his Hollywood ambitions were becoming more frequent than ever.

WWE Tag Team Championship:
Team Angle (c) vs Chris Benoit & Rhyno vs Los Guerreros

Back to Smackdown for our next contest as we have another type of triple threat match with the WWE Tag Team Championship up for grabs. As I mentioned at the last show, Team Angle defeated Los Guerreros on Smackdown in February to become the new champions. Meanwhile, Chris Benoit has history with Team Angle due to his recent rivalry with their mentor Kurt. One man who seems to be randomly inserted into this match is Rhyno, who we have not seen on PPV in over a year. The Man Beast had been sidelined in late 2001 with a neck injury, but he made his surprise return on the Smackdown after No Way Out, teaming with Benoit to defeat Matt Hardy & Shannon Moore. In all likelihood, his spot here was probably going to go to Edge before his injury, as he had been teaming with Benoit in recent weeks prior to our last PPV. Anyway, after defeating Team Angle in a non-title match, Benoit & Rhyno had an opportunity to earn a title shot in a number one contender match against Los Guerreros the following week. Speaking of the former champions, they were still heels here, but were really moving into the tweener zone with their Lying Cheating and Stealing vignettes and antics becoming popular with fans. Anyway, much like in the build to the Women's title match that preceded it, Team Angle attacked both teams in the contender match, which led to a triple threat tag match being signed for Mania instead. You would think those heel champions would learn huh? By the way, only two men are allowed in the ring at a time in this match, but you can tag anybody in. The match is another short one, but it continues the trend of solid performers thus far from the undercard. Benjamin and Haas are really impressive in how quickly they have developed into quality performers considering their short time on the roster in particular. It was slightly depressing at the time to see Benoit seemingly being lost in the shuffle after his great feud with Kurt Angle to start the year, but he performed his role well and had the crowd behind him. Similar to Taker, 2003 would be a fairly low profile year for Benoit for the most part. The Guerreros were great as well and they were on the way to becoming the top team in the division soon enough, while it was also good to see Rhyno back in the mix after a lengthy sabbatical. All six men get a chance to do their thing here for a few minutes, but in the end its the champions who come out on top. We looked to be en route to crowning new champs in the closing moments of the contest as Rhyno delivered a Gore to Chavo, however Eddie would pull Rhyno out of the ring. Meanwhile, Shelton Benjamin would capitalise and pin the downed Chavo for Team Angle to retain their titles at 8:48. A solid title defence with the key players in the division involved.
Grade: ***

From here we go back to the Catfight girls, along with Torrie and Stacy. Torrie and Stacy start arguing over who made WrestleMania what it is today between Hogan and Vince. They storm off, which leads to the Miller Lite girls arguing as well. They decide to settle their differences later on - in bed. Lawler can hardly contain himself.

We follow that up with a video package chronicling the HBK/Jericho feud.

Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho
We're into the big matches now, with this feud building all the way since January. When we last left off, Shawn Michaels got into an altercation with Chris Jericho and Christian at No Way Out. They had also been feuding with Test at the time, and the following night on Raw, Eric Bischoff made a tag match pitting Jericho & Christian against Test & Stacy Keibler. During that match, the heels would handcuff Test to the ropes, but just as Jericho was about to go after Stacy, Shawn Michaels made the save. Unlike at No Way Out however, it was Jericho who got the last laugh on this night as he laid Shawn out with a chair. The challenge was made for Mania, and the following week, Shawn Michaels would accept by delivering Sweet Chin Music to Y2J. From there, the two men would get into both physical and verbal altercations with the idea being that for years Jericho wanted to be like Shawn Michaels, but he now thought he was better than the man he had looked up to over his career. Expectations were high for this one, as Shawn Michaels was competing in his first Mania match since WrestleMania XIV. He gets a great reaction from the crowd and he shoots of a series of confetti guns into the crowd as he makes his way down the ramp. Hilariously many of them do not work which leads to priceless facials from HBK. Anyway, as far as the match itself is concerned, this was a great match that was easily the best to that point in the night. Despite the stacked line up, this match felt like a big deal and they were given a good amount of time to put on a great show. Its two of the greats going at it for over twenty minutes - whats not to like? After some back and forth action to start, Shawn took the early advantage, and he busts out an impressive plancha over the top onto Jericho outside of the ring in the early going. Shortly after this however, Y2J takes control and he works over the well documented vulnerable back of Michaels and locking him in the Walls. Michaels fights out, but Jericho continues to punish his one time idol, and does a great job as the egocentric heel as he mocks and taunts Shawn throughout the match, including an attempt to perform Sweet Chin Music. Shawn comes back leading to more back and forth as the action really kicks into high gear with a series of near falls, including Sweet Chin Music by Michaels which Jericho manages to kick out of. More great stuff follows including Jericho countering another superkick attempt into the Walls, but Shawn gets to the ropes. Another Sweet Chin Music connects as Jericho complains to the ref, but once again Y2J kicks out of the subsequent pin. The crowd is on the edge of their seat by this point after what has been an incredible match. Jericho ends up going for a backdrop suplex, but out of nowhere Shawn rolls through and scores the surprise pin to make his triumphant return to Mania at 22:34. A really great match, with much more still to come on this night. At the time there was a lot of surprise that Michaels won here, but thats because most people still didn't think he would be sticking around much longer now that he had his Mania return. As it turned out, this would pretty much be the point at which Shawn would shift back into a full time schedule and with that in mind, I don't see a problem with the veteran getting the win here. Jericho had a great performance with the Showstopper here, and he gets his heat back afterwards anyway. He gets to his feet in tears which leads to Shawn offering his hand in sportsmanship. Jericho instead pulls him into a hug as the crowd applause. The celebration is short lived however, as Jericho decks Michaels with a low blow and the crowd boo the sore loser as he leaves ringside. A great match followed by some solid character progression for Jericho. This feud would continue on Raw over the course of the year, but they would not have another one on one PPV match in 2003. Their feud would be revisited much further down the line however.
Grade: ****1/4

We cut backstage to outside Mr McMahon's office as Sylvain Grenier, the corrupt referee from No Way Out enters. From there we go to an ad hyping next month's Backlash, and more significantly, the WWE debut of Goldberg. More on him next time, but this leads to a big "Goldberg" chant from the crowd.

Speaking of the crowd, it is now announced that a new attendance record for Safeco Field has been set of 54,097. From there, Limp Bizkit are introduced once again, and they perform the theme song for the PPV.

Cat Fight:
Kitana Baker vs Tanya Ballinger vs Stacy Keibler vs Torrie Wilson

This is what the backstage segments earlier in the night had been leading to, as Jonathan Coachman was set up by a bed near the entrance area. Kitana and Tanya (who are the Miller Lite girls by the way) come out to go at it, but Stacy Keibler interrupts saying three girls in bed is better than three. She gets ready to join in, which of course brings Torrie Wilson out as well. She says they are missing a Playboy cover girl, so its now a fatal four way. Coach provides commentary on the mic while the typical cloth ripping and pillow slaps follow. Torrie and Stacy end up rolling over Coach, which leads to all four ladies ganging up on him and revealing his underwear. Stacy rolls Coach up and counts three for herself as all four celebrate. Just filler to get the crowd ready for the big list of main events to come. It didn't overstay its welcome so I have no problem with this for that purpose. All four ladies looked great, and King loved it. There's not much else to say.
Grade: N/A

That leads us into a video package for the World title match.

World Heavyweight Championship:
Triple H (c) w/Ric Flair vs Booker T

While many Mania plans seemed to be lined up last month at No Way Out, it was unclear as to who Triple H would be defending his World title against. That would change the night after that PPV however, as Booker T would win a number one contender battle royal, last eliminating The Rock, who looked on in shock. The following week, Triple H confronted Booker T, and the promo that started the "Triple H buries everyone" theory occurred. Triple H mentioned Booker's achievements in WCW but then referred that WCW was a joke, before delving into Booker's personal history and his time in jail as a young adult. Triple H said that "people like Booker" were not cut out to be championship material in the WWE, which led to an uproar of racial allegations. Triple H would subsequently say that he was referring specifically to Booker's past. The feud was all about Triple H downplaying Booker's achievements, which in turn implied Booker would come out on top here. Thats likely why this match has such a bad reputation among fans. Aside from that element of the feud, Booker's former tag partner Goldust was attacked backstage by Evolution members Randy Orton & Batista, which led to Goldust being electrocuted. Speaking of Orton and Batista, there is no sign of them on this show, and I believe Batista may have been sidelined already with an injury that would take him out of action for a number of months. Thats what I mean about Evolution getting off to a shaky start. Nonetheless, on the Raw before Mania, Booker & Goldust teamed up against Triple H & Flair, with Booker scoring a pinfall victory over the Game heading into the biggest match of his career. That brings us to one of the most controversial matches in WrestleMania history. As far as the match itself goes, its actually decent. Not great, but definitely passable for a title match down at this point in the card. Triple H certainly looked a lot better in there against Booker than he had on the past two PPVs with Steiner (another man conspicuous by his absence on this show). Flair is his always great self on the outside actively interfering to help Triple H as well. I really enjoyed the commentary in this match as well, with King really seeming to grind JR's gears as the match progressed, which we would see again in a later match. The Flair influence is seen in Triple H yet again during the match as the Game busts out an Indian Deathlock, which definitely worked better as a submission move than the sleeper he had been using a few months prior. Booker fights out and has the crowd behind him, but in some great psychology, he is unable to capitalise on a Scissor Kick to the champion due to the damage that has been done to his leg. By the time he goes for the cover, Triple H is able to kick out. Booker follows up with the Harlem Hangover, but this time Flair puts Trips' foot on the rope to continue the match. The momentum continues to build for the challenger, but his injured leg gives way, and that leads to a Pedigree from the champion. Triple H takes a while to cover him (no its not as long as many would have you believe) but he eventually covers Booker to score the decisive win, retaining his title at 18:45. Yep, Booker lost the feud that seemed designed for him to win, and outrage followed. The important variable here to remember is that a certain face was coming in that we saw a vignette for earlier in the night. With that man entering the mix, you needed the belt on Triple H for that big win to mean that much more. Booker was a victim of circumstance and timing here. That said, I do think the ending could have been less decisive, thus allowing the Booker/Triple H feud to continue in the meantime until Goldberg was ready to enter the title mix later in the year. After all, Triple H's impending transition feud was quite a mess. But thats getting ahead of ourselves. Overall a solid match, with the net result being fine, but it probably could have been executed to keep Booker's momentum on track.
Grade: ***1/4

From here we go straight into a video package for the Hogan/Vince feud. At the time there was a lot of talk about this match going on last. They made the right call by having it at this point in the show instead.

Street Fight:
Hulk Hogan vs Mr McMahon

We now move to the most heavily hyped match on the card. Since returning to Smackdown, Hulk Hogan had a series of confrontations with the evil owner of the company, which led to Mr McMahon screwing Hogan in Montreal last month at No Way Out in his match against The Rock. On the next episode of Smackdown, Mr McMahon proclaimed that Hulkamania was dead and he aired his grievances with Hogan, going back to the Hulkster's defection to WCW and testifying against him in the steroid trial of the early 90s. Vince would ultimately challenge Hogan to a fight at WrestleMania, a challenge which the Hulkster accepted without hesitation. This led to a contract signing a few weeks later on Smackdown hosted by Mean Gene Okerlund. As Hogan was about to sign the contract, McMahon nailed the Hulkster with a chair, busting him open, and proceeded to make Hogan sign the contract in his own blood. The stipulation was also added that if Hogan were to lose, his career would be over, with Vince wanting to kill off Hulkamania for good. Anyway, Hogan gets a great pop fitting of the legend that he is as he makes his way to the ring to the music of Voodoo Child. McMahon does his infamous power walk to the ring and we are set to go. Now, this obviously isn't your competitive wrestling match, but as I always say during Vince McMahon matches in these reviews, if you're going to complain about the lack of workrate, you're completely missing the point of matches like this. What we get here is an entertaining spectacle between two major characters in wrestling history squaring off at the biggest event of the year, and it leads to a fun watch. It starts out as a brawl, with Vince actually getting some shots in on the Hulkster as he works over his arm, but it does not last long and Vince is busted open with a chair quite early on as Hogan fights back. Its quite a gusher as well and it leads to a great visual later in the match. Before we get there though, the action moves over to the Spanish announce table as Hogan unloads on the boss, but McMahon shoves Hugo Savinovich right into a chair shot to give him a breather. That leads to Vince taking in control again as he pulls out a ladder and actually delivers a legdrop off it to a prone Hogan laying on the announce table. Thats yet another example of Vince being willing to do anything he expects of his performers. Back in the ring, McMahon is unable to keep Hogan down for the three though, so he goes under the ring and grabs a lead pipe. Thats where we get the visual that I always think of when I think of this match, as a bloody Vince peers over the apron into the ring with a sadistic smile, indeed looking like Satan himself. Hogan manages to stop him from using the pipe with a lowblow however. With both men down we get a big surprise as none other than Rowdy Roddy Piper shows up as the crowd go wild! He teases hitting Vince, but ultimately nails Hogan with the pipe. He'd stick around for a few months. Hogan kicks out of a subsequent cover as Piper leaves, so an angry Vince takes out the ref. That brings out Sylvain Grenier as part of McMahon's plan, but after kicking out of a Vince attempt at the legdrop, Hogan takes out the corrupt official. From there we go home as Hogan hulks up and puts Vince away with the big boot followed by the legdrop at 20:47. After the match we get a cameo from Shane McMahon as he checks on his father, with a laid out Vince giving Hogan the finger as he celebrates his win. Overall just a really fun match that paid off the storyline heading into this show. It definitely would not have worked in the main event slot as rumoured, but it was fine for the spot on the card and the kind of match they made this. Its similar to the Vince/Shane match from WrestleMania X-7 in a lot of ways in that it was memorable due to the twists and storyline moments. Hulkamania will continue to run wild. Or so we think.
Grade: ***1/2

From here, the star power train continues as we go to the video package for Austin/Rock.

Steve Austin vs The Rock
While we kicked off a new era last year with the brand extension being implemented, the final match of the night from Raw serves as the culmination of the rivalry that defined the Attitude era - Austin vs Rock. Of course, these two meg stars had met twice before at WrestleMania, with Austin being victorious on both occasions. That would serve as a key story element heading into this match. It all started a week after No Way Out, when Austin made his first appearance on Raw since walking out the previous year. He thanked the fans for welcoming him back, but his speech was interrupted by the Great One, who had moved to Raw after his match with Hogan at the previous PPV as a favour from Vince McMahon. Rock was upset that Austin had been voted as the greatest superstar in the history of Raw at the ten year anniversary despite walking out on the company, and told the Rattlesnake that the one thing that ate at him was that he had never been able to defeat Stone Cold at WrestleMania. The challenge was accepted at Austin was set to go one on one with the Great One, one last time. In the weeks that followed, tensions would escalate as Austin would assist the Hurricane in scoring a major upset over The Rock on Raw. Finally, on the Raw before Mania, The Rock hosted the first ever "Rock Concert" (in which he sung the hilarious "Leaving Sacramento"). After a series of songs ripping on the crowd by Rock, Austin would crash the party and smash Rock's signed guitar, leading us into Mania. Of course, there's one more thing to mention. Only a select few individuals knew at the time, but this would end up being, to date, the final match that Stone Cold Steve Austin ever competed in. His neck problems were well documented over the years, and he was forced to call it a career or risk further injury heading into this show, and so perhaps the greatest career of all time was brought to an end as far as being an active competitor. You can tell JR knew, as throughout the match it sounds like he is legitimately getting upset with King who keeps going on about Rock's Hollywood career. Anyway, it was natural that Austin's final match would be against his greatest rival, and they deliver an awesome match here. Its not quite at the level of their WrestleMania X-7 encounter, but it definitely surpasses WrestleMania XV in my view. This feels like the big match it should right from the get go, with the crowd into both guys, with Austin in particular getting a monster pop. The two men quickly go at it on the outside as the match gets under way, and while Austin has the initial advantage, Rock comes back after clipping the knee of the Rattlesnake. Rock does a great job in his heel persona yet again as he mocks Austin and even puts on his jacket, but that fires Stone Cold up to the point that he starts coming back. The ending segment of the match really feels epic as the two legends go all out with finishers and counters, with nothing able to keep the other man down. Austin gets a near fall from a Stunner, but after a low blow from Rock, and that takes us to the end. Rock delivers a People's Elbow and two consecutive Rock Bottoms, but on each occasion, Austin kicks out. That leads to a third Rock Bottom which finally puts Austin's shoulders down for the three count at 17:55. The Rock finally gets the win that he wanted, and after the match he exchanges private words of respect with the Rattlesnake before leaving. Austin then gets to his feet and the crowd give him a standing ovation as an unknowing send off to the greatest of all time as his music plays. An awesome match and a high note to end Austin's career as a wrestler. He'd stick around in a new role for the next year which we will see in time. As for Rock, he had another month in him before heading back to Hollywood.
Grade: ****

The final match of the night is up next, and we go to a video package for Brock/Kurt.

WWE Championship:
Kurt Angle (c) vs Brock Lesnar

We conclude the night with the much anticipated showdown between the two men that will define Smackdown over the course of 2003. Of course, Brock Lesnar earned the right to challenge for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania by virtue of his Rumble win. In the weeks following No Way Out however, things took an intriguing turn. On an episode of Smackdown, Brock would face his former manager Paul Heyman in a steel cage match. Brock would destroy the man who cost him the WWE title back at Survivor Series, and as a result of the beating, Heyman was written off camera for a while. By defeating Heyman however, Brock actually earned a WWE title shot the following week. A lot of people expected an early title change as Kurt's neck problems were quite common knowledge around this time. It would all be a swerve however, as Brock would level the champion with an F-5 before chasing off an interfering Benjamin and Haas. With Lesnar distracted however, we got the old switcheroo with his brother Eric. A fresh Kurt would roll Brock up and retain the title, establishing that he would indeed be competing at Mania. Angle's tricks would not go unnoticed by Stephanie McMahon though, and on the Smackdown before the big event, she added the stipulation that if Angle got himself counted out or disqualified, he would forfeit the WWE title to Brock. The stage was set and we were guaranteed a one on one showdown between these great athletes on the grandest stage of them all. Now, the result of this match was fairly predictable, as Kurt was on his way to the sidelines for some much needed neck surgery. That doesn't hurt the match though as the story here was all about Brock's journey back to the championship that he controversially lost. He gets a decent response from the crowd as Cole mentions he is making his WrestleMania debut in the main event. Definitely an impressive feat. Angle also gets a strong pop though, with the crowd respecting him giving them this match. His career's future was very much in the air at the time. With the amateur history these two have, there is no surprise that we start things off with some back and forth mat work in an attempt to one up the other. Eventually Kurt goes on offence, and he doesn't hold back at all, determined to make the most of his main event slot on the card. Angle unloads on Lesnar with a series of suplexes while working over his back. Some counters leads into back and forth once more as the two men go for their signature moves. One such spot sees Kurt counter a shoulder block into an awesome German suplex. He soon gets Brock in the Ankle Lock from there after avoiding an F-5, but with Lesnar getting to the ropes, he subsequently hits an Angle Slam but Brock kicks out. Cole mentions that nobody had ever kicked out of the Angle Slam before but that doesn't seem right. Anyway Brock reverses a later Angle Slam attempt into an F-5, but Kurt manages to get the shoulder up. Thats where things get a little...interesting. Unable to put Kurt away with his finisher, Brock decides to go up to the top. The problem is, Kurt isn't in reach. Already being up there, Brock figures he has to go ahead with it, and he goes for a Shooting Star Press! Knowing he's not going to land it correctly, Kurt rolls out of the way and Brock's head hits the mat in a spot that is tough to watch. He had used the Shooting Star Press before in OVW, but never on the main roster so I get saving it for Mania, but things could have gone terribly wrong there. Brock is clearly out of it as he lands, which leads to Kurt improvising. Moments later, Brock somehow manages to deliver another F-5 and that gives him the victory at 21:07. A great match, that would have been the full five stars had it ended off a correctly hit Shooting Star Press. That would have been a memorable way to end the show. As it stands, its still a memorable moment, just for the wrong reason. Regardless, it doesn't take away from the match as a whole which was excellent. These two men had great chemistry together and we would see more of that as the year progressed. Brock Lesnar is the WWE Champion again, and while he is still starry eyed, he manages to shake Kurt's hand, and the two embrace in a moment of great sportsmanship. There's not much more to say other than this match was a classic encounter between two men that defined the feel of Smackdown at this point in company history.
Grade: ****3/4

When you ask most people what the greatest WrestleMania of all time is, chances are they will say X-7. That reputation is well deserved, and while I'm not going to dispute it, I don't think its that obvious a call. WrestleMania XIX is a dark horse as far as a potential greatest Mania of all time in my view. This show had a ton of star power, great matches and an awesome setting which all adds up to an excellent show. The undercard matches were all solid, and from the moment Shawn/Jericho started, the PPV kicked into high gear with the exception of the cat fight which was there to spell the crowd over. The only really disappointing match on this show was Triple H/Booker T, and thats more due to the booking corner they were in. It was still a decent match though. Hogan/Vince was fun for what it was meant to be, and from there we capped things off with a great final chapter of the rivalry of the Attitude era, followed by a match of the year candidate between two great athletes. I have fond memories of 2003 as this was around the time that I was really becoming a hard core fan of the product. A lot of people feel differently about this time in company history. Regardless of how you feel about the time period though, this was an excellent event. Definitely go out of your way to watch it again.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Kurt Angle/Brock Lesnar (tie) - an awesome match to cap off an excellent event. Major props to Kurt for going out there with his neck injury and putting on such a high quality effort. Lesnar was great as well.
2. Steve Austin/The Rock (tie) - while I didn't grade their match as high as Jericho/Shawn, the emotion puts it right on the same level. A match that Austin in particular can be proud of, with it being the final match of his career.
3. Shawn Michaels/Chris Jericho (tie) - another excellent match on this show. A triumphant return to Mania by HBK and a great spot on the card for Y2J to thrive.

Yep, six stars tonight. Too many great performances.

FINAL GRADE: 10 out of 10

What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1.

Steve Austin = 113
Bret Hart = 83
Shawn Michaels = 77
The Rock = 72
Triple H = 66
Kurt Angle = 47
Mick Foley = 38
Chris Jericho = 32
Undertaker = 31
Chris Benoit = 31
Randy Savage = 28
Hulk Hogan = 25
Owen Hart = 21
Edge = 19
X-Pac = 18
Jeff Hardy = 16
Diesel = 15
Matt Hardy = 14
Ultimate Warrior = 13
Vader = 13
British Bulldog = 12
Christian = 12
Ted DiBiase = 10
Razor Ramon = 10
Vince McMahon = 10
Brock Lesnar = 10
Ric Flair = 8
Jim Neidhart = 7
Bubba Ray Dudley = 7
D-Von Dudley = 7
Rob Van Dam = 7
Jerry Lawler = 6
Dynamite Kid = 5
Arn Anderson = 5
Roddy Piper = 5
Mr Perfect = 5
Marty Jannetty = 5
Bob Backlund = 5
Shane McMahon = 5
Eddie Guerrero = 5
Ricky Steamboat = 4
Ax = 4
Smash = 4
Bobby Heenan = 4
D’Lo Brown = 4
Rikishi = 4
Kane = 4
Greg Valentine = 3
Tully Blanchard = 3
Tanaka = 3
Bam Bam Bigelow = 3
Sato = 3
Jake Roberts = 3
Hakushi = 3
Yokozuna = 3
Savio Vega = 3
Ken Shamrock = 3
Chyna = 3
Brutus Beefcake = 2
Paul Orndorff = 2
Andre the Giant = 2
Rick Rude = 2
Sgt Slaughter = 2
Jeff Jarrett = 2
Rey Mysterio = 2
Chavo Guerrero = 2
Jesse Ventura = 1
Texas Tornado = 1
Tito Santana = 1
Virgil = 1
Scott Steiner = 1
Rick Steiner = 1
Lex Luger = 1
The Roadie = 1
Billy Gunn = 1
Bart Gunn = 1
Marc Mero = 1
Flash Funk = 1
Animal = 1
Hawk = 1
Taka Michinoku = 1
Test = 1
Big Show = 1
Dean Malenko = 1
Scotty 2 Hotty = 1
Rhyno = 1
Shelton Benjamin = 1
Charlie Haas = 1

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @Mpmcc91. Thanks for reading!

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