Tuesday is the 18-year anniversary of WrestleMania 18 from the arena formerly known as Skydome in Toronto (currently Rogers Centre).
The main event of the show pit Chris Jericho against Triple H for the undisputed heavyweight championship. But the only thing pro wrestling fans — young and old — remember is the iconic battle featuring The Rock and Hulk Hogan.
With WWE presenting its biggest annual event of the year, WrestleMania 36, on Sunday, April 5, Sporting News is going to be recapping and doling out match grades on the anniversaries of pro wrestling’s biggest event.
Here are match grades and recaps, courtesy of SN’s Steven Muehlhausen.
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WWE Wrestlemania 18 main card match grades
Lord William Regal vs. Rob Van Dam for the Intercontinental title
Muehlhausen: A match few people talk about on this historic show. This was the first WrestleMania appearance for Regal and Van Dam. The crowd was really into Van Dam, as they were into it from the time his entrance music hit. A solid affair that saw Van Dam win the belt for the first time when he hit the Five-Star Frog Splash. The air on that move as announcer Jim Ross said was like Michael Jordan in his prime. Their styles didn’t mesh well, though, as Regal was more mat-based, while Van Dam brought pure athleticism, but the crowd carried them to a passable contest.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian for the European championship
Muehlhausen: One would think on paper that it wouldn’t be too good considering Page was in his 40s, and Christian was still in his 20s. Instead, they delivered a solid bout from start to finish. Page proved he could hang with the young guns of WWE. The moves were crisp and told a solid story. After attempting to nail the Diamond Cutter on several occasions, Page finally hit the move to retain the belt.
It wasn’t too much longer for Page, though, as he retired shortly after. At least he got his WrestleMania moment.
Goldust vs. Maven for the Hardcore championship
Muehlhausen: A lot of rough action inside the ring that saw Goldust having to struggle to get anything out of the rookie and winner of the first “Tough Enough” show. Spike Dudley ended up winning the belt when Goldust got tossed to the outside, brought his own referee inside the squared circle to a fallen Maven, and a new champion was crowned. Dudley immediately left the ring with Goldust, Maven, and Crash Holly chasing him through the crowd.
They wound up backstage, where everyone was trying to get to Dudley. He appeared to escape the chaos when Hurricane Helms came out of nowhere, attacked Dudley from behind and scored the pin and title. After a series of title changes throughout the event, Maven wound up remaining the champion.
Kurt Angle vs. Kane
Muehlhausen: Wrestling fans recognize Angle as one of the all-time greats and this match is one of the reasons why. Kane isn’t regarded in the same caliber of workers, but Angle made him look like a million bucks here.
The match started slow but picked up over the final 10 minutes. Kane looked to have it won after hitting a chokeslam, but Angle put a hand on the rope at the very last moment. Angle reversed it to rake Kane’s mask and Angle Slam for a two-count. Angle tried to make Kane submit to the Anklelock, but Kane made it to the rope. Kane then hit Angle with a head kick.
Kane tried for a clothesline from the top rope, but Angle sprung up, ran to the top, and executed a belly-to-back suplex. He tried for another chokeslam, and Angle reversed it for an attempted pinfall. Angle had to scramble to get his feet on the ropes. He finally did and scored the pin.
Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker in a no-disqualication match
Muehlhausen: At this point, Flair was looking to find himself after losing his confidence as a performer in the final days of WCW as the company folded in March 2001 with the early part of his return to WWE in November 2001. The Undertaker was in a new phase of his career with the “American Bad Ass” gimmick, where he’d ride a motorcycle down to the ring and had a crew-cut.
The match was a lot of smoke and mirrors, which ended up playing to each other’s strengths and got the crowd into the action more.
The Undertaker tried for his Last Ride powerbomb, but Flair blocked it. The Undertaker switched course and stuffed the former 16-time world heavyweight champion with his patented Tombstone piledriver to go to 10-0 at WrestleMania.
Booker T vs. Edge
Muehlhausen: Watching Edge come out, you could see he was going to be a major superstar. He got a great reaction and carried himself like a future world champion during his ring walk.
The match was OK, nothing too special. Both guys tried their hardest after having to follow Flair and The Undertaker, but couldn’t get any momentum. Edge won after a spear and then an Impaler DDT for the pin. Not Edge’s most significant moment, but it was his first singles win at WrestleMania, which was a sign of things to come.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall
Muehlhausen: You see the names and think, ‘Wow, this could be great.’ However, Austin was unhappy with his standing in the company and Hall was going through a litany of personal problems, including a battle with alcohol addiction. Walking to the ring, it was pretty obvious Austin would have rather been anywhere else than Toronto.
Hall wasn’t at the top of his game either and it just made everything a cluster. Austin looked to have the match won with the Stone Cold Stunner, but fellow NWO member Kevin Nash interfered on a couple of occasions to try and help Hall win the contest.
Nash was escorted from ringside after attacking two referees. Hall shoved Austin into the exposed turnbuckle, hit a Stone Cold Stunner of his own to try to beat Austin with his own maneuver, but Austin kicked out at two. Moments later, Austin pushed Hall into the same exposed turnbuckle and connected on two Stunners for the win in a forgettable affair.
The match ended up being Austin’s final win at the landmark event.
Billy and Chuck vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The APA vs. The Hardy Boys for the Tag Team titles
Muehlhausen: The four-team elimination bout came down to Billy and Chuck against The Hardy Boyz.
The referee was on the outside when Billy hit Jeff Hardy with the tag title belt for Chuck to cover him to remain champions. All eight guys worked hard, but it was one of those matches in which you could go to the bathroom or get a snack. There was no story behind it and the match just thrown together, so it gave fans no reason to be interested.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock
Muehlhausen: By no stretch of the imagination was this the greatest technical match of all time. But that isn’t the only ingredient for an instant classic in pro wrestling. It’s about two people in the ring and the crowd inside the arena.
Hulk Hogan — one of the most iconic characters in pro wrestling history. The Rock — one of the most popular superstars ever and, along with Austin, a catalyst of the “Attitude Era,” having gone on to become an even bigger Hollywood superstar.
On their walks to the ring, the crowd gave Hogan an enormous reaction with The Rock not too far behind. Hogan and Rock hadn’t even touched yet and were face-to-face in the middle of the squared circle when the fans were on their feet, taking pictures and cheering wildly.
Anything both guys did, the fans reacted loudly by cheering for Hogan and The Rock getting a mixed reaction. After The Rock executed a Rock Bottom, Hogan got up and “Hulked Up” to a thunderous ovation. Hogan connected on his customary punches, followed by the big boot and leg drop. Rock kicked out to the shock of everyone. Hogan attempted the leg drop again but missed. The Rock executed a couple of Rock Bottoms, punctuated things with the People’s Elbow for the one, two, three, and an end to a classic that hardcore and casual pro wrestling fans still remember 18 years later. One for the ages.
Jazz vs. Lita vs. Trish Stratus for the Women’s title
Muehlhausen: All three women were put in a tight spot here coming off the epic Rock vs. Hogan match. There was nothing wrong with it on a pure wrestling standpoint, but no one cared. People were coming off the high of the previous match and trying to gear up for the main event.
Jazz retained the title when she hit an incredible Fishermen’s Suplex on Lita from the top rope.
Chris Jericho vs. Triple H for the Undisputed Heavyweight championship
Muehlhausen: You had to feel terrible for Jericho and Triple H. They were tasked with putting on a memorable WrestleMania-worthy main event. But that happened two matches beforehand. Both guys worked extremely hard, but the crowd just couldn’t get it into. It wasn’t like the match was terrible because it was pretty good. The circumstances just didn’t play in their favor.
Prior to this, a WWE heavyweight championship bout had been the WrestleMania headliner 15 of 17 times. Things should have remained at that number because the feeling on this bout would have been different. Triple H hitting the Pedigree to become the undisputed champion should have been a monumental moment and one we still talk about to this day. Instead, it’s merely an afterthought to Rock-Hogan.
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