A few weeks after WrestleMania 18, WWE split their roster in two, with what they called the brand split. There had been talk of doing a project like this dating back to even before the Invasion, but now that the roster was overflowing with talent, it made sense to split the roster in order to give more performers a stage. The idea was that now that WCW and ECW were gone, WWE could be its own competition, offering viewers two different brands of WWE programing with their own distinctive rosters.
This idea works well on paper, but as the years went on, it somehow resulted in less people being over. RAW was very much treated like the A program; everything that seemed relevant happened there. Whenever someone got hot on SmackDown, they were usually shipped off to RAW. When someone became lost in the shuffle, they went to SmackDown or ECW, a third brand introduced in 2006 that resulted in Vince McMahon’s idea of what ECW was, which funny enough was a quasi-developmental league. People started coming and going between the three rosters so much that soon there was little to no reason why people just came on the opposite show. Like most of Vince McMahon’s ideas, he was really behind the idea of himself being his own competition. But soon, he got bored, and moved on to other things. The split itself lasted roughly 10 years, which is staggering considering how long other ideas from Vince McMahon lasted (read: not many). Triple H just announced one day on RAW that SmackDown stars would start to appear on RAW, and that was the quiet end to the brand split.
What does this have to do with WrestleMania XIX? It was the first WrestleMania under the brand split, so we had two main events for two world titles. Brock Lesnar was the pushed guy at the time, so he was the big SmackDown star, looking to regain the WWE title from Kurt Angle. What was scary about this match, however, is that it might have been Kurt Angle’s last match. His neck had been deteriorating for a good while and needed to have surgery and take time off. However, he wanted to compete at WrestleMania no matter what. The consensus at the time was that one wrong bump could have spelled the end for him. No one knew what kind of condition Kurt Angle was in entering the match, and they definitely had no idea how he would be after.
Meanwhile, Triple H, who was gunning for a top spot forever, made sure Brock Lesnar stayed on SmackDown and soon became the World Heavyweight Champion, a title that was awarded to him by Eric Bischoff because I guess he was that damn good. After trading it with his good buddy Shawn Michaels, he was set to defend it against Booker T. This would be a feud highlighted by Triple H making various racial remarks disguised by his (legit) background of formerly being incarcerated. Despite the terrible build to the World title match, everything seemed to indicate Booker T would pull off the big win and become champion, proving them all wrong. But as we hear every week — plans change.
But the titles aren’t the only major stories of the show. Vince McMahon decided that he was to be a marquee of the event, sharing the spotlight against Hulk Hogan. Neither were that mobile at this point, but it didn’t stop them from having a major feud over who created what. Mr. McMahon stated that without him there would be no Hogan or WrestleMania. Hogan argues that it was the people that created Hulk Hogan, WWE and WrestleMania, not Vince McMahon. The two would battle it out to determine who is right and who is wrong. Not that it wasn’t an interesting feud, but to be promoting the top match with two guys who were both roughly around 50 years old at the time, it was weird.
Meanwhile, one guy was making his return to the ring at WrestleMania and the other was about to have his last match. After spending the last four years rehabilitating a back injury (among other personal issues) Shawn Michaels returned and proved to be just as great as he was before the injury, perhaps better. He was set to face Chris Jericho, someone who drew a lot of comparisons to Shawn but wanted to prove that he was better than him. Meanwhile, spinal stenosis cut Stone Cold Steve Austin’s career short, and it was determined that WrestleMania would be his last night as a in ring competitor. He almost didn’t even make it to the show, as he was hospitalized the morning of the show. But he made it back, and was able to have one more memorable bout with one of his best rivals, The Rock.
So many interesting stories here, not all televised. It’s kind of amazing that out of all the WrestleManias that could have been filmed, they chose to make WrestleMania XIX into a movie. If you haven’t seen it, The Mania of WrestleMania is a fascinating look into the show, and that is highly recommended to whomever wants a even bigger look at the events leading to, during, and after this event.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy ©: This was a really, really short match. Matt found his own niche as the leader of Mattitude, and what is funny is for a while everyone thought he was going to be the big star while Jeff Hardy faltered during his initial singles push and soon found his way out of the company for a few years. They ended up both doing pretty well as singles but we all know what happened here. Shannon Moore got involved throughout the match, including putting Matt’s leg on the rope for a nearfall. They worked fine here but Matt’s kind of too big to be a cruiserweight. I guess in WWE’s eyes though he’s the right size. Rey hopped on his shoulders and tried to roll into a pin but Matt stopped it and grabbed his hand on the rope to steal a win. Good while it lasted, but again this didn’t last long. **1/2
The Miller Lite Catfight girls arrived. Even in 2003 I had to Google who the hell these women were. Apparently they fought each other in skimpy outfits during Miller Lite commercials. Clearly WWE went to much expense in bringing these highly touted actresses in for this appearance.
Footage from Heat was shown of Nathan Jones being laid out by the Full Blooded Italians. So tragically, he’s out of the upcoming contest.
Limp Bizkit came out to preform. They were introduced as “WWE’s favorite band”, further proving the WWE has zero taste in music. I thought their favorite band was Saliva or POD, but I guess I was wrong. The audience promptly did not care for this at all. It was only until the Undertaker came out did they even remotely care what was going on.
The Undertaker vs. A-Train and Big Show: A-Train tried to distract Undertaker by toying around with his bike, Undertaker sent Big Show packing and tries to chokeslam A-Train but Show breaks it up. A-Train is soon tagged back in and they actually have a very interesting exchange, including the Undertaker doing a LEAPFROG. I completely forgot how athletic he was back in the early 90s. They have good chemistry, just like how Albert had good chemistry with Kane. Albert’s pretty underrated as a worker, honestly. Undertaker is able to take care of them for a bit, but eventually falls to a Big Show chokeslam. Suddenly, Nathan Jones arrives and lays out Big Show with a roundhouse kick. He comes in and helps even the odds, giving A-Train the chokeslam for the pinfall. A lot better than I remembered this match being. **1/4
The Miller Lite Catfight girls met up with Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler. They all compliment each other in the most fake manner possible. I don’t know if they were being fake intentionally or not, in all honesty, just came off that way. One of the catfight girls said they had an idea, so they all went to go somewhere else to talk about it.
WWE Women’s Championship – Trish Stratus vs. Jazz vs. Victoria ©: Well, this sounds like an improvement from last year and it was! Watching the last match last year and this match makes me feel like Jazz was one of the best women’s workers they had in a long time. Trish has improved tremendously in the last year and Victoria did some cool spots, including a moonsault. Some really fun back and forth throughout. Eventually, Jazz got sent to the outside as Trish and Victoria traded offense. Victoria went for the widow’s peak but Trish escaped and hit what I guess was supposed to be a chick kick, but more like a kick to the abdominal area to pin her and win the championship. **3/4
The Rock is interviewed. He says these are the same people who have booed him and have called him a sellout so he could care less about them. Tonight is the last chapter of the greatest rivalry this industry has ever seen. He guaran-damn-teed that he will be walking out the winner tonight. You know what it means every time someone in WWE says “guaran-damn-teed.”
WWE Tag Team Championship – Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit and Rhyno vs. Team Angle ©: Of course, the highlights here were between Benoit and Guerrero. Everyone looked pretty alright here, to be honest. Eddie hits a frog splash sending Benjamin to the floor. Rhyno comes in with a gore on Chavor. Eddie pulls out Rhyno, which allows Shelton to sneak over and cover Chavo for the victory. They didn’t have a ton of time here, but it was fast paced and full of action. **3/4
Stacy and Torrie’s idea was to take pictures with the Miller Lite Catfight Girls. What a dumb idea. They followed this by arguing over who created WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan or Vince McMahon. Torrie and Stacy leave, and the Catfight girls decide to settle it both in the ring and in bed. The crowd popped for this, which was pretty sad. There’s this thing called the internet if you want to see half (or no) dressed women, people.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels: The first 5-10 minutes of this match a very good back and forth wrestling match. Real old school feel to it that it wasn’t a bunch of high spots; felt very much like you could have seen this on a NWA World Wide show. Michaels used a plancha to take out Jericho on the outside. Jericho recovers and uses the Walls of Jericho on the floor, then rams HBK’s back on the post. HBK tries some punches but Jericho takes him down then does the kip up to MOCK HIM. What an ass, he does the HBK pose and everything. HBK responds in kind and gets his heat back. Lots of nearfall reversals. Jericho gets the lionsault for a nearfall. Michaels comes back and goes for the hurricanrana but Jericho is able to transition into the walls of Jericho. HBK manages to grab the ropes and avoids the walls again with a small package. Jericho then does the stomping motion, ready to the superkick, and he executes it…for a nearfall! HBK counters a superplex with a crossbody and tries to go for the elbow but Jericho manages to kick the referee into the ropes, crocheting him. Shawn throws him off and hits the elbow. Shawn misses the superkick and hits the Walls. Shawn manages to escape and Jericho, after arguing with the ref, eats a superkick…for a nearfall! They go at it until Shawn manages to go behind and hook Jericho’s arms and rolls him up for the pinfall. A great, old school wrestling match that was expertly well done. ****1/4
Jericho,visibly emotional, walks over to Shawn. He extends his hand, but Jericho opts to hug him…then low blows him because he’s a prick heel. He shoves him down and walks away as HBK’s tended to by the ref.
SYLVAN GRENIER walks to Mr. McMahon’s locker room, I guess he’s the ref for his match.
54,097 people are at Safeco Field tonight. Big stadium, cool look, nice atmosphere. This WrestleMania did a really low buyrate, and the area took the blame for it not being a success. Yes, no one bought WrestleMania because it was in Seattle. This only makes sense in Vince McMahon’s world, people.
The theme to WrestleMania 19 is apparently “CRACK ADDICT” by Limp Bizkit. There are some advantages to living in these PG times. Limp Bizkit performed the song. Skipped through this, obviously.
The Miller Lite Catfight Girls came out for their catfight. There was a bed on the stage. Both Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson came out and said they wanted to join in this fight as well. I was about to fast forward this, but then…they took off clothing…then I became concerned about them being cold. It rains a lot in Seattle. Yes, that’s it. My concerns faltered when they ripped off Coach’s clothing and pinned him, so they won and posed for the people.
They aired a video package between Triple H and Booker T. Man, was this a bad feud. Everything about it, from the racial undertones to Triple H doing his lame Ric Flair get up to him burying WCW, completely invalidating anything Booker T ever did. And just wait until the match!
World Heavyweight Championship – Triple H (c) vs. Booker T: The problem here was not the match itself — it was pretty good. The commentary, particularly Jerry Lawler was awful, talking about how people like Booker T shouldn’t contend for the title. Of course, he meant a former convict, you see. Just super bad stuff that was totally not needed. Triple H worked on him a while until Booker T started to make a comeback. Triple H sends Booker T to the outside where Flair takes him and introduces his leg to the steel steps. Triple H busts out an Indian Deathlock, a move that needs to be introduced back as it looks pretty damn cool. He works on the leg for a good while. Booker T gets Triple H in a rollup and this is here he makes his comeback, including hitting the axe kick for a nearfall. Flair gets on the apron but Booker T throws him off, which allows Triple H to come and land a superplex…but Booker T throws him off, beats up Flair and hits the Harlem Hangover but Flair puts the knee on the rope. Booker tries for the axe kick, but his knee is bothering him. Triple H then pedigrees him. He slowly makes his way to Booker T and covers him…for the three count. Very anti-climactic and decisive win for heel Triple H. It was supposed to be the other way around, but someone decided at the last minute Booker T wasn’t the guy. Three guesses who. ***1/4
Mr. McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan: Of course, this was the big marquee match at the show, so I guess you can put two and two together and figure out why Vince blamed the area instead of what was being promoted as the reason why the buyrate was low. Hogan gained control at the bell, but then McMahon cut him off. I never, ever once bought Vince McMahon as a competitive wrestler who could put the heat on everyone. His matches need to be overbooked messes, not Vince overpowering HULK HOGAN. But then again, I don’t run this company now, do I. This, in fact, was a brawl that went everywhere. Hogan busts him up with a chair. Hogan is in control until he accidentally hits Hugo Savinovich with a chair and is distracted long enough for a low blow. McMahon blasts Hogan with a chair, busting him open as well as he introduces a ladder. He sets Hogan up on the table and does a legdrop, crashing him and Hogan through the table in a crazy spot. You know, Vince McMahon might be a weird old coot who couldn’t wrestle if his life depended on it but he busts his ass in all of these matches. And that’s appreciated, without a doubt. Hogan doesn’t kick out. Vince grabs a pipe and they do THAT SHOT of him rising up, crimson mask, looking like the epitome of evil. One of the all time great camera shots, honestly. Hogan blocks it, low blowing Vince. Suddenly a masked man comes out and it’s Roddy Piper, who hasn’t been in the WWE since 1996. He acts like he’s about to hit Vince, but hits Hogan instead. Vince motions for his crooked heel ref to come in, but Hogan kicks out and starts to hulk up. He eliminates Sylvan, does his comeback and hits three leg drops to pin Hulk Hogan, because I guess that’s what it takes to beat up Vince McMahon. This was pretty fun, regardless. **3/4
Shane McMahon arrives to the ring after the match, I guess to check on his dad. There’s some tension, but Hogan lets him in as he makes his exit. I don’t remember this part of the match, and really don’t know why it was done as it never went anywhere.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock: Austin beats on The Rock at the start as they brawl around the ring. Rock clips his knee and takes him back to the outside where he smacks his knee on the SmackDown announce table. The commentary here was the big part of the match as well. JR was calling this like it was the match of his life, taking it totally serious, which I’m pretty sure is because he knew this was Austin’s last match. Lawler was a complete goof which did not help matters in the least and made it and made things feel odd. Rock continues to work on the leg and mocks him, putting on his vest but Austin takes him down with a clothesline. Rock responds with one of his own but he stalls too much and walks into a Rock Bottom by Austin for a nearfall. Austin goes for the stunner, but Rock reverses into one of his own for another nearfall. Rock kicked out of a stunner. Austin shoves the referee which allows The Rock to low blow him and go for the elbow, but Austin counters..only for Rock to take him down with a spinebuster and the elbow for another nearfall. A second rock bottom doesn’t do it. A third doesn’t either. The fourth one, however, does it. They say three, but I counted four…which is odd. If you mean three in a row, sure, but whatever. This was pretty good, and a nice sendoff for Austin. ***1/2
Rock celebrated as he headed to the back. Austin got up and his music played as he saluted the crowd and headed to the back. They couldn’t say this was his last match, but the way this was presented you kind of could tell. I didn’t back in the day, but watching it now, yep.
WWE Championship – Kurt Angle (c) vs. Brock Lesnar: Kurt Angle came out first because, you know, Hogan. Or Austin? Maybe Brock. Champions should not come out first, don’t care if they’re heels. Taz namedropped Tito Ortiz who was in the audience. This is so funny years later. UFC name drops were pretty okay until a few years later when, you know, it became huge and outdid WWE in buyrates for years and years. It starts out very much like a Japanese style match with back and forth standing switches and offense. Kurt cuts Brock off and locks in a bow and arrow. Taz was actually describing how it hurt Brock and Michael Cole brought up Lesnar’s injured ribs. As someone who has to deal with announcing in 2015, this was a signal of how far things have fallen. This is never, ever done in the United States anymore. Brock breaks Angle’s hold by ramming him across the back, which made me wince even though I know he turned out fine here (to an extent). Back and forth from here. Angle drills Lesnar with German suplexes. Big overhead German suplex followed by the Angle slam for a nearfall. Brock gets up and manages to hit an F5 but Angle kicks out. Brock picks him up but Angle grabs his leg and executes the Angle lock. Brock escapes from the Angle slam again and hits a second F5. Brock then looks at the ring post. He starts to climb. It’s very obvious he isn’t going to hit it, but tries it anyway and botches it, looked terrible upon landing and he got a major concussion from this. Despite all that, he manages to kick out of Angle’s pinfall attempt. He picks him up with an F5 and lands it once more time for the pinfall. Great back and forth main event. ***3/4
Lesnar, completely out of it, doesn’t even grab the title and just stares into space as his music plays. Angle walks over to Lesnar and they hug as fireworks go off and the show ends.
This is a show more remembered for the stories behind it rather than the stories that actually happened in the ring. But regardless, it was a pretty solid show with a good main event. Nothing dragged, nothing outright sucked, and overall it was a pretty fun event highlighted by a few memorable matches and angles.