Thursday, 16 April 2015

WrestleMania XIX

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 347 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 14 2003

WrestleMania XIX is an odd one: it is not remembered and referenced as much as other WM shows, and yet it is one of the top three Manias ever. And the DVD captures this event in all its glory, along with some cool extras too.

Before we get started, note that this was the last year before the re-introduction of the WWE Hall Of Fame, so no HOF ceremony is here. This was also the last Mania to be released on a 2-disc DVD, so extras are more limited than for later Manias. I should note that the side-sleeve which is part of a "2003" image when all 12 PPV DVDs for 2003 are together looks good when alongside the rest but, on its own, it looks a bit odd.

(Author's note: I bought this DVD in 2004 when it was bizarrely priced in WH Smith for £4. £4! Four pounds for a WrestleMania DVD that usually cost £25 (and DVDs were still relatively new; videos/VHS cassettes were only just starting to disappear). For a then-16 year old kid with a love for WWE, this was brilliant!)

Onto the show then: this was the first WM under the WWE label, and the first since the Raw/SmackDown! brand split. It was the first, therefore, to feature two announce teams, two ring announcers etc, and the first to feature the World Heavyweight Championship. It was also the first WM to not feature the Intercontinental Title in many years, beginning an unwanted tradition. The original Tag Titles only made it to Heat, although the SmackDown Tag gold was defended on the main stage.

As for the matches, then: we start with Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio for the Cruiserweight Title which is a nice opener although a few more minutes and the reverse result (Rey winning) would have made it far better. Then we get the first of several pointless segments involving The Miller Lite girls, who later face Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson in a catfight (presumably when people hail WM 19, they aren't talking about this). The Undertaker goes 11-0 under handicap rules in a match which is okay but wasn't anything to shout about, making it the last unmemorable WM match involving Taker.

Match 3 is a 3-way Women's Title match which is actually really good; Trish Stratus triumphs in what was a triumph for the Divas involved. Next is a short 3-way Tag for the SmackDown! belts, won by defending titleholders Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas.

The action had been good so far, but the card starts really picking up steam with match number five between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho. This was a dream match but, because of Shawn's back injury, it seemed like it would never happen. But it did here, and HBK returns to WrestleMania by winning a show-stealing match with Y2J, who classes this as the greatest bout of his career. (Before the next match, we see a video announcing Goldberg's impending debut in WWE, which was very exciting at the time!)

A forgotten bout is next: Triple H vs. Booker T for the World Title. This is underrated (probably cause it involved HHH who was legitimately hated at the time), but is a notch below the other big matches here. It is of note for the fact that H3 Pedigrees T but waits 23 seconds to pin him. That Booker lost was disappointing enough at the time, but this act (considered a sign of disrespect inside wrestling) infuriated those who already loathed The Game.

A guilty pleasure followed: Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon in a Street Fight with Hulk's career at stake. They said this was 20 Years In The Making given their history. Beforehand, I wasn't massively keen on seeing this, but it ended up being incredible! Considering that Hogan was 49 and Vince was 57, and bearing in mind their limitations, this was a brawl for the ages, featuring insane moves and a totally unexpected appearance by Rowdy Roddy Piper. Hogan wins in what should be remembered as one of the greatest matches of both men's careers.

As a 14-year-old boy watching this event at the time, I thought nothing could top that ... and then the graphic came on-screen for Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock! And knowing that Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title was still to come, I still remember that at that point I was thinking: "This is the best show ever!" It wasn't far off, I can tell you.

Austin-Rock 3 is another great match of their feud, if slightly lesser than their famous WM X7 top-liner. Being young, I was still naive, so I was surprised that Rock finally beat Austin (nowadays I would class the result as a foregone conclusion). But more notable in hindsight is that this marked Stone Cold's last match. It wasn't announced at the time, it was hinted and rumoured afterwards, but most expected a comeback match eventually ... but it didn't happen. The Austin Era ended here.

Angle-Lesnar went on last, and was another dream match. Kurt went in with a serious neck injury, so the ending was telegraphed, but that he competed at all both surprised and scared many who feared a career-ending accident. As it turned out, though, it was Brock who was almost crippled when his attempt at a Shooting Star Press saw him have a bad landing on his forehead. But somehow he recovered and F5'd Angle (for the third time, by the way) for the win. Both men hugged afterwards, culminating what had been a great main event but, had Angle not been hurt, it could have been an all-time classic. Still, nobody was complaining about the quality of the match or the show, which is one of the top two or three WrestleManias ever.

As stated, the extras are limited compared to future modern WM DVDs. However, there is still a nice selection of bonus footage which notably includes post-match interviews, an entertaining series of promos for a special held at The World (after it had closed down, bizarrely), superstar thoughts on their favourite WM moments, and Goldberg's debut on Raw the night after Mania. In retrospect, the documentary The Mania Of WrestleMania (which looked behind the scenes at WM 19) should have been included here rather than on the WM 20 DVD, but that's just the way things go sometimes.

On the whole, though, the WrestleMania XIX DVD experience is a hugely enjoyable one. The card is massively entertaining and the extras provide a lot of fun as well. It's a hark back to the pre-HOF days, and to a time when WrestleMania was more about the action than the spectacle. Whether you're watching this for Shawn's return to the grand stage, Hogan and Vince's roller coaster ride of a fight, Stone Cold's swan-song, Lesnar's brush with death or even Goldberg's debut on Raw, the DVD of WrestleMania XIX has something for everyone and is a must-own. But unless you're fortunate, don't expect to get it for the bargain price that I did!

Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding

No comments:

Post a Comment