In the first two installments of this WrestleMania history series, we've looked at the very beginning of WrestleMania starting with the first three WrestleMania events that started this incredibly history wrestling event. We also looked at all the WrestleManias throughout the years in the WWF: World Wrestling Federation. We looked at the contributions of Superstars such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, The Honky Tonk Man, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Ric Flair, Ted DiBiase Sr., Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Sgt. Slaughter, and so many others who competed for greatness in the earlier years of WrestleMania.
In this third installment, we'll look at the first few WrestleManias after the WWF renamed to WWE: World Wrestling Entertainment.
WrestleMania XIX (19) was the very first WrestleMania of the newly renamed WWE. It took place on March 30th, 2003 in Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The first-ever WWE WrestleMania was a tremendous success which featured fantastic performances from all of the Superstars and Divas involved.
All of the matches involved deserve mention:
1. In a WWE Cruiserweight Title match, Matt Hardy, who had broken out of the shadow of his younger brother Jeff Hardy, successfully defended the Cruiserweight strap against the legendary Luchador, Rey Mysterio.
2. In an incredible display of strength, speed, and overall pure athletic ability, "The Phenom" The Undertaker extended his WrestleMania win/loss record to 11-0 by defeating both "The Big Show" Paul Wight and The A-Train in a two-on-one Handicap Match.
3. Legendary WWE Diva Trish Stratus captured the WWE Women's Championship in a Triple Threat Match against the powerhouse known as Jazz and the Women's Champion going into the match, "The Vicious Vixen" Victoria.
4. In a Tag Team Triple Threat Match, the team of Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin successfully retained the WWESmackDown Tag Team Championship against "The Man-Beast Rhino" & "The Rabid Wolverine" Chris Benoit, as well as the team of Los Guerreros: Eddie & Chavo Guerrero Jr.
5. In what is still considered to be one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history, the veteran defeated the young and arrogant lion, as "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels AKA "Mr. WrestleMania" defeated "Y2J" Chris Jericho, a man who had patterned his career after his boyhood hero, Shawn Michaels. This was also the firstWrestleMania that Shawn Michaels had competed in since the 1998 WrestleMania against Steve Austin.
6. For the World Heavyweight Championship of WWE Monday Night Raw, "The Game" Triple H continued his winning ways against a top contender in Booker T.
7. In what was labeled as being "The Grudge Match That's Been 20 Years In The Making", WWE Chairman Mr. Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. tasted defeat at the hands of one of the greatest wrestling Superstars of all time and a WrestleMania veteran, Hulk Hogan. This match also saw the return of the iconic WWE Superstar "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, who remained with WWE for a short time afterwards.
8. The third time proved to be the charm in this match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock. Steve Austin picked up victories over The Rock at WrestleMania both in 1999 and 2001. However, "The Brahma Bull" proved to be too much for "The Texas Rattlesnake" in this match, which would end up being the last match (so far) in the legendary career of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
9. In the main event match of WrestleMania XIX, the WWE Championship from SmackDown was on the line, as the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and reigning WWE Champion Kurt Angle put the Title on the line against the accomplished amateur wrestling monster and already former WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar. This match is often remembered for having one of the most frightening moments in WrestleMania history, as Brock Lesnar landed directly on his head while attempting to execute a top-rope Shooting Star Press on Kurt Angle. However, Lesnar was able to recover from his fall and finally pin Angle with the F-5 to capture the WWE Championship.
The twentieth WrestleMania event took place on March 14th, 2004, in front of over 20,000 fans at the world's most famous arena: Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York City. WWE labeled WrestleMania XX as being "Where It All Begins... Again."
There were 12 bouts featured on the card that night. In a two-on-three tag team Handicap Match, Evolution, consisting of Ric Flair, Dave Batista, and "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton, defeated The Rock and Mick Foley, also known as The Rock & Sock Connection. This would be Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's last wrestling match until the year 2011.
In what is remembered as a rather bizarre situation, Bill Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar in a match with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as the referee. There had been rumors on the Internet that all three could possibly be leaving the company, though Lesnar's departure was certain. The MSG fans were not tolerant of Goldberg or Lesnar, and the entire match was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd. Sure enough, all three men ended up parting ways from the company, though Steve Austin has since regained a relationship with WWE.
The late great WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero successfully defended his WWE Championship from SmackDown in a bout against the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle. Also, The Undertaker made his return to WWE after taking several months off. He soundly defeated his younger half-brother Kane and extended his WrestleMania record to 12-0.
And in the main event of WrestleMania XX, "The Game" Triple H's World Heavyweight Championship from Monday Night Raw was on the line in a Triple Threat Match also featuring "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels and a man who had spent nearly 20 years trying to capture a WWE World Championship, the late "Rabid Wolverine" Chris Benoit. In an absolutely incredible match, Benoit was finally able to force Triple H to submit to the Crippler Crossface submission hold. Chris Benoit was the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion of Monday Night Raw, while his dear friend Eddie Guerrero was the WWE Champion of SmackDown.
WrestleMania 21 in the Los Angeles, California Staples Center featured eight memorable bouts.
In a match which saw Legend vs. Legend Killer, The Undertaker made "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton number 13 in his list of WrestleMania victims. Also, Kurt Angle defeated "Mr. WrestleMania" Shawn Michaels in a true classic.
WrestleMania 21 was also where WWE's Money In The Bank Ladder Match was born, as "The Rated R Superstar" Edge defeated Kane, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, and Christian to win the MITB contract.
In the Championship main events, John Cena captured his first World Championship, as he defeated JBL: John "Bradshaw" Layfield for the WWE Championship from SmackDown. And in the final match of the night, "The Animal" Dave Batista defeated his former mentor Triple H for the Monday Night Raw World Heavyweight Championship.
April 2nd, 2006. The Allstate Arena in Rosemont Illinois. WrestleMania 22 featured 11 high caliber matches.
Rob Van Dam captured the Money In The Bank contract by defeating "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, and Dave "Fit" Finlay. Van Dam would later cash in the contract and win the WWE Championship at the 2006 ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view.
In one of the greatest Hardcore Matches in WWE history, "The Rated R Superstar" Edge defeated "The Hardcore Legend" Mick Foley following a Spear through a flaming table outside the ring!
The Undertaker reached 14-0 at WrestleMania by defeating "The World's Strongest Man" Mark Henry in a Casket Match. And "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels defeated WWE Chairman Mr. Vince McMahon in a hard-hitting No Holds Barred match-up.
For the SmackDown World Heavyweight Championship, Rey Mysterio won his first World Title by defeating the Champion Kurt Angle and "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton in a Triple Threat Match. This victory was in the memory of Rey's good friend Eddie Guerrero, who passed away in November of 2005.
In the closing match of the night, Triple H was unsuccessful in his attempt to defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship from Monday Night Raw. This was a grueling 20-minute match which saw the veteran Triple H take the younger Cena to his limits. But in the end, the young lion reigned supreme.
WRESTLEMANIA PART FOUR: THE RECENT YEARS
In our next installment, we'll look at the more recent years of WrestleMania, starting with WrestleMania 23 in 2007, going all the way up to WrestleMania 27 in 2011.