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  Friday, March 15, 2002

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WrestleMania 31: Main Events

WrestleMania 31: First Half Matches

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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

WrestleMania way!

By ROSS WILLIAMS -- for SLAM! Wrestling

In my last article, I analysed the unspectacular card that the World Wrestling Federation have thrown together for their biggest event of the year and I mean thrown together, since several of the bouts are more makeshift than Kane as WWF Champion. I made it pretty clear that I'm not impressed with the way the event is shaping up. It's WrestleMania! It's supposed to be the most electrifying night of the year! It still could be -- but only if a few situations come to pass.

Step into my dream world with me - a world where Stephanie McMahon puts down the pencil and says "Well, maybe I *have* been booking myself at the top of the show a wee bit too much." Where Paul Heyman says "I have no burning views to contribute at this stage." Where the other members of the writing team abstain from comment. A world where I, Ross Williams, The "King" of wrestling journalism, sweep gloriously into the room, pick up the pencil and open the book.

By the way -- I'm working with the card as it is scheduled. Believe me, if I had the book, the whole event would look very different (and a lot like Donnie Abreu's effort from one of his recent articles). Also, in advance, I'd like to apologise to Don Callis for not writing in a storyline where Chris Jericho gets crowned "Ruler of All-Things" and greatest-person-in-the-history-of-the-world- ever .

I ask myself -- how can I make WrestleMania X8 interesting?

Following the regular pyro -- just in a cavernous arena, the show kicks off with Christian's music, which should elicit a hearty pop from the Canadian crowd.

As an opener, I don't think we could get better than this. Having been squashed for almost a year, DDP will relish the chance to show he can still go when the spotlight is on him. A title match at WrestleMania on his home turf must be a dream come true for the thoroughly talented Christian -- undoubtedly, this will be a very strong match. Following DDP's subsequent loss of the European title to the Toronto native, the reaction will intensify as Christian mocks DDP, leaving through the crowd.

Backstage Interview -- Hollywood Hogan speaks of how he is going to deal with The Rock -- but is, of course, stopped by "The Great One" himself. Cue much back and forth from two of the best interviews in the business.

Next up, we have the Tag Team Title four-way bout, with elimination rules -- with the Dudley Boys out first. The fans evidently want to cheer these guys right now, so let's do something about this. Grabbing the mic, Bubba says that there's something they've needed to put right for a long long time. Within seconds, Stacy has been dropped to the mat with a 3D and Bubba's telling D-Von to get the tables. One second rope powerbomb later, Stacy is removed from ringside as the Dudleys introduce their new manager -- Paul Heyman. Would sending a woman through a table turn them face? Heck, it's what did the trick first time around!

Bring out the Hardys, The APA and Billy and Chucky and let the warfare commence. It seems wholly obvious that, the APA and Billy and Chuck brawling into the stands, it should come down to the tried and tested formula of the Hardys and the Dudleys, a rivalry that never seems to end. Still, with Paul Heyman onside, the momentum should carry this bout through until an error on Lita's part (top rope dropkick hitting Jeff instead of D-Von) leads to a 3D and the Tag Titles for the Dudley Boys. Following the decision, let's add a little spice by having Jeff grab Lita and set her up for a jawbreaker -- only for Matt to step in and push him away from his girlfriend -- only to drop her with the Twist of Fate himself. Jeff follows up with a Swanton Bomb on the tattooed dragon and the Hardy Boys leave with absolutely no explanation and a chorus of boos directed at them.

Backstage, Stephanie McMahon runs into William Regal and asks to borrow something. Regal leads her to his dressing room.

I'll reserve judgement on the farcical set up of the Edge versus Booker T match and just say that Booker should go over, via pinfall, in a hard fought match. After the bell, however, Edge should freak out (again), spear and DDT the Booker Man several times, requiring a bunch of referees to separate them. Edge makes a retreat through the crowd.

Backstage, the Rock walks to his locker room after having been brashly offensive to the regular cast of stage-hands, techies and Michael Cole. He walks into his dressing room, where he is viciously beaten by Nash and Hall.

William Regal drags the IC title out of the locker room. Rob Van Dam drags it back about 5 minutes later in a bit of a squash, filled with all of RVDs trademark spots, a great way to ensure maximum crowd reaction. Also a great way to free up some time for the upper card matches.

Backstage, Tim White is asked about the condition of Lita and the condition of The Rock -- the Doc is giving the Rock the once over but Lita will not be working tonight.

About 4 months ago, Kurt Angle and Kane had a thoroughly enjoyable wrestling match on Smackdown -- I say we should give them enough time to construct a fitting sequel. Hell, the WWF is going to waste one of its premier talents on a pointless mid-card match, I say we do it in style. Whilst most people agree with me that Angle is a prime piece of talent, Kane is much maligned, in my view. The Big Red Machine should be allowed to go toe to toe with Kurt here, complete with a spotlessly clean pinfall victory -- courtesy of the tombstone piledriver. Why would I job Angle on the big card? It really wouldn't do much damage to his reputation, whereas a high profile win for the increasingly mid-card Kane would prime him for fresh new disputes with Hogan, Nash and Hall.

The women's title is on the line next, with Jazz dishing out a beating to heavy crowd favourite Trish Stratus. Having had all of her comeback attempts thwarted, Trish, slumped on the mat, seems on the verge of defeat -- then Lita's music hits and the injured diva makes her way down to ringside to get involved. Jazz begins pounding on her pretty much immediately, but Lita manages to get a few licks in, culminating in a top rope Hurricanrana. Lita slowly crawls over for the cover, but only gets a two. These two ladies climb to their feet and Jazz clotheslines Lita over the top rope. Needless to say, she is taken totally by surprise when a recovered Trish levels her with the Stratusfaction bulldog to regain the title.

Hang on, that might actually make a WWF ladies' match entertaining-- maybe I'm just *too* out there for my own good.

We cut to the back, where Kevin Kelly updates us on the Rock situation (although if my booking were to be uninhibited, the segment would include him being mown down by heavy gunfire). The Rock is going to be okay to wrestle but the match is going to replace the World Title bout as the last bout of the evening to allow him more time to recover.

For the second time ever, Ric Flair walks the aisle at WrestleMania. He is soon followed by the man that just doesn't seem to be able to get over as a heel; The Undertaker. What could be a disaster of a match and a heat-vacuum should be kept short and sharp -- with Vince McMahon strutting to ringside some 5 minutes into the encounter. He clutches an nWo shirt and wears a Cheshire Cat grin. Taker plants Flair with a chokeslam before McMahon throws the nWo shirt to him. Mark looks at the tee before dropping it on the mat, looking irritably at Vince. McMahon gets back in the ring and demands that Taker pick the shirt up. The "Phenom" responds by booting McMahon in the stomach and delivering the Last Ride. A groggy Flair then gets in the fallen owner's face before walking into the second tombstone piledriver of the evening and a pinfall. The Taker then leaves the ring holding the nWo t-shirt but not wearing it.

Three matches left and any heat that Mark may have caused to evaporate should be brought back by the shattering glass that signals the arrival of Stone Cold Steve Austin. With Nash in tow, Hall dominates the bout, somewhat against expectation. The end needs to be crisp -- having backdropped Hall over the top to the floor (foiling an Outsider Edge attempt), Austin takes to the floor, throws Hall back into the ring, throws a few punches big Kev's way and climbs back into the ring. He goes for a Stunner -- Hall knees him in the back and then sets Steve up for a back superplex. Having delivered the move, Scott calls for the Outsider Edge again. However, he picks Austin up, gives him the finger and goes for the setup boot for the Stunner. Austin catches the leg, spins Scott around and boots him in the stomach, going for a Stunner of his own. Hall blocks it and pushes Austin to the ropes, hoisting him up for the Outsider Edge upon the rebound and scoring a (hopefully) shocking clean pinfall victory.

Is Tripper going to get a face pop in Toronto against Chris Jericho? I hope so. Let's have Jericho play up his coming from Manitoba and cite his displeasure at being in "backward Canada" in a promo before the bout. Again, the key to this match's success is making sure that Tripper sells for Chris, something I'm not sure will happen if Paul gets his way. Everyone is expecting Stephanie to turn on Chris Jericho in this match, so let's go with this. With the ref having taken the obligatory "World Title Match Bump"!, Steph climbs into the ring as both men get back to their feet. She goes into her pocket and removes a pair of brass knuckles, with which she threatens Triple H. She turns and nails Jericho in the head and he drops like a sack of bricks. Triple H and hugs Steph. She passes him the brass knuckles whilst going into her other pocket. Tripper turns his back on Steph, puts the brass knuckles on but then stops on his way over to Jericho's limp form. He turns back to Steph, who nails him in the face with another set of brass knuckles. He drops to the mat. Jericho leaps to his feet, not having been affected by the fake knucks Steph smacked him with, hits the Flubsault and makes the cover. Steph drags the ref across to make the three count. She then, horror of all horrors, shares a passionate kiss with Y2J and the two saunter off with the super-duper title belts (the really good ones).

So, Jericho is still the World Champion and can actually claim to have had a decent high profile win where he didn't look like a total pansy. He should also be able intensify his heel heat via a proper interaction with Steph. Meanwhile, Tripper will actually have more of a reason to hate Steph than "she's a bit of a bitch" and can roar into Backlash, where he'll be winning the big belts. If we job Jericho at WM, it's a complete waste of the last 6 months of effort with him. We've already seen enough of Tripper as a heel and Jericho as a face -- they're working well on the current sides of the fence -- let's keep it that way for a while.

Backstage, as Hogan makes his way to the ring with Hall and Nash, Austin strikes, chasing Hall and Nash from the area. Hogan is left to make his way to the ring alone.

The big showdown -- Hogan vs The Rock. Will it be a decent match? Get them to use the crowd reaction to cover up for their shortcomings -- check out Warrior vs Hogan at WM6 to see proof that a huge crowd response CAN a great match make. Rock and Hogan both need to raise the bar here and come through in the main event. It also needs a clean finish. The Rock hits the Rock Bottom. Hogan kicks out and waggles his finger in Miavia's face. One punch! Two punches! Three punches! Whip to the ropes! A big boot! The Rock goes down. Hogan runs to the ropes but the Rock nips up and catches Captain Fake Suntan in a spinebuster. The People's Elbow follows in short order, the ref counts one..two..Hogan kicks out - just. Both men get to their feet, The Rock nails another Rock Bottom with which he collects the clean pinfall and finally breaks a horrific streak of losing WrestleMania main events.

I'd like to see that. I hope you would too. Come this Sunday, I hope we all do.

  • Ross Williams hails from Royal Berkshire, England and has written for several wrestling newsletters since 1996. He currently writes for and co-produces e-zine The Shooting Star Press.

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