Welcome to the fifth post of a series here at Blade Jobs of Steel. In the countdown to Wrestlemania XXVIII, we’ll be looking back at a few different topics related to the big event, and giving it more analysis than most sane people would give to a worked sport.
In this post, we’ll be exploring an idea first presented in 2009 by a former writer at 411mania.com, Jake Chambers, Wrestlemania Themes. He postulated that hidden in every trilogy of events there is a theme. We’ll expand this a little bit more and look at some different themes and stories that have been present in the different trilogies. In this post, we’ll look at the themes in the sixth trilogy, spanning from the 16th to 18th editions of the event.
DO YOU SMELL WHAT’S COOKING?
Wrestlemania XV ended with Stone Cold Steve Austin winning the WWF Title over Vince McMahon’s corporate champion, The Rock. Fast forward twelve months and things were of course, very different.
First Steve Austin had re-aggravated his neck injury and had to be “hit by a car” and would miss almost a year of action. The Rock was also cast out of The Corporation and was once again “The People’s Champion” and very clearly filled Austin’s place as top babyface in the company.
The Main Event for Wrestlemania XVI (called Wrestlemania 2000) ended up being a four-way elimination match between The Rock, Mick Foley, The Big Show, and WWF Champion Triple H as there was a McMahon in every corner. While Foley and Big Show were given prominent roles, it was obvious that the two big stars here were The Rock and Triple H.
They ended up as the final two in the match, it seemed like The Rock was destined to win, but Shane and Vince McMahon allied with Stephanie and cost The Rock the match. This made Triple H the third person to defend his title successfully at Wrestlemania, and also the first heel to leave the event with the top belt.
But don’t let that fool you, the top star was clearly The Rock, and he showed it the very next month winning the WWF Title from Triple H at Backlash. After a few other interruptions to his run, he would enter Wrestlemania X-7 with his then record setting sixth WWF Championship reign. To take on the record setting three time Royal Rumble winner, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
For the third straight year The Rock went on to lose the Main Event at Wrestlemania, but this one was especially significant. In a clear battle between two men at the absolute top of the wrestling world, it was the former rebel Steve Austin who needed to seek help. He needed Vince McMahon’s help in order to beat The Rock. The message was clear, The Rock was the top star now, Austin could only hope to be second best.
The Rock got to be such a big star that he would leave the business for almost six months in 2001 to film The Scorpion King, his first full feature film.
By the time Wrestlemania X-8 came, things were rather different. After the purchase of WCW, the company saw a huge glut of new talent come in, but none of them a bigger name than Hulk Hogan, who came in February 2002. He immediately set his sights on The Rock and an Icon vs. Icon match was set for Wrestlemania X-8 in Toronto.
The Rock finally ended his losing streak at the Big Event with one of the biggest wins in history. He defeated Hulk Hogan clean as a whistle in this multi-generational showdown. Despite his two tainted losses, The Rock was clearly established as The Man. Many said that day, and many more have said since then that Hogan-Rock should have closed the show. Were that the case, The Rock would have tied Hogan’s streak for closing the event four straight times, but it was not meant to be.
The Rock was such a big star that the WWF would be forced to lose him. Not long after he defeated Hogan, The Rock went back to Hollywood, where he would more or less stay from then on. Sure he would have a few more matches in the coming years, but nothing concrete.
The company was forced to do the same thing that happened when Hogan left, find somebody new, and that of course would take time.