No one denies that, despite a fair few shaky years, WrestleMania is the grandaddy of them all – where it all began, where it all begins again and all the other rhetoric they throw at you to sell tickets. While there are certainly many who would take against WrestleMania’s seventeenth offering for killing the overrated Attitude era, or indeed presenting a show of sports entertainment rather than ‘rassling, it still remains the most critically lauded. Just one look at the card shows amazing initial promise, and it’s something the entire pay-per-view lived up to in spades.
Featuring, in large part, the culmination of years of storytelling, WrestleMania X-Seven managed to give basically all of its players the swansong they deserved before transitioning into the oft-overlooked Ruthless Aggression era. With a mighty display of matches that put the talent’s best qualities on display, we end up with the perfect explosive end to the “car crash TV” approach they had taken throughout the later nineties. Kicked up to 11 and firing on all cylinders, no WrestleMania before, and none since, had been so appropriately and meticulously curated.
As soon as you see the level of attendance packed into the Reliant Astrodome you can tell that this is going to be quite a spectacle. Each and every fan is clearly rabid with excitement and passion from the outset, the atmosphere being the perfect background to the whole event. Starting with a hilarious tumble between the incredible William Regal and the no less adept Chris Jericho, things start off well. The promo packages are memorable and consistently funny and the wrestling itself is surprisingly technical, if still subject to the inevitable watering down of true athleticism that comes with the WWE (then WWF). From the beginning, everything just feels right – made all the more set in stone when we move on to a particularly passionate piece of mic-work from Bradshaw (better known today as JBL) and a resoundingly rich “damn!” from Farooq.
We go on to travel through a card that, of course, has its ups and downs. In a show of this length and variety, not everything’s going to hit the mark. When it comes to WrestleMania X-Seven, we can look in the direction of Undertaker and Triple H’s sub-par brawl, Chyna vs. Ivory and the Gimmick Battle Royal, but even they are able to entertain in their own right – despite clear and obvious flaws. Of particular note is the breathtakingly intelligent bout between Chris Benoit (a now taboo name) and Kurt Angle, which manages to take us on a physical journey that employs all the athletic storytelling a five-star match demands. Adding a solidly insane “Hardcore” match-up and the work of art that is the TLC II (comparisons to the first are facile) makes WrestleMania X-Seven‘s undercard a steel solid affair we all too rarely get.
None of this even mentions the main event of The Rock vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the WWF Championship, which goes a long way to showing just how big your major draw should be. Too many main events are flash-in-the-pan gimmicks, while this match-up is clearly representative of sports entertainment as a whole in that era; a perfect clash of the company’s biggest and most deserving stars. A fantastic and chaotically executed affair, the match is an unbelievably fitting end to both WrestleMania X-Seven and the Attitude era as a whole. The “twist” at the end carries a lot of depth, however you feel about it, and the brawl itself is a magnetically watchable one – as one would expect from the two top workers of their generation.
Whatever WrestleMania X-Seven might mean to you as a fan, it’s sure to mean something. That’s the weight it carries, and it’s a pay-per-view that truly shows the power and allure of wrestling from almost every possible angle. If you haven’t yet dipped into the magnificent pool of sports entertainment, WrestleMania X-Seven may be a little too developed in its approach to act as an introduction. Instead, if it’s a world you’re diving into, simply look forward to it as the finest of its ilk, and truly a milestone for the ages.