It's never too early to start looking forward to the biggest WWE event of the year, and with Survivor Series just a few weeks away and The Undertaker making a return, it won't be long before WWE begins shaping the card for the 33rd edition of WrestleMania.
With only five months left until WrestleMania 33 in April, Fox Sports is launching 20 Weeks of WrestleMania. We'll rewatch and recap a different WrestleMania each Monday in the buildup to the Showcase of the Immortals – skipping over a few of the duds along the way.
Each week's selection will come from a different era WWE history, and we decided to begin with WrestleMania X8, a classic show headlined by the Icon vs. Icon matchup of The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
Toronto's SkyDome – now called the Rogers Centre – hosted WrestleMania X8 in 2002 and set a building attendance record of 68,237. Musical acts have always played a big part in WrestleMania's history, and X8 opened with Saliva performing Superstar, the event's official song. The band would return later to perform The Dudley Boyz' theme song, while Drowning Pool performed their own version of Triple H's The Game – which is far worse than Motorhead's version – prior to the main event.
Opening match: William Regal vs. Rob Van Dam for the Intercontinental Championship
ECW superstar Rob Van Dam made his WrestleMania debut in Toronto against Regal, who was always underrated as a heel. The match began with Regal, the defending champion rummaging around his tights for a pair of brass knuckles (for an awkwardly long time), but Van Dam kicked them away before he was knocked out.
Regal began bleeding from the mouth after taking a kick to the face from a jumping RVD, and Van Dam would also begin bleeding from the mouth later in the match. (Blood is taboo in WWE nowadays, but it was surprising to see the amount of stars in this show alone who were bloodied accidentally. That doesn't happen anymore.) Van Dam endured a few scary looking falls onto the back of his neck and hit a frog splash to win the Intercontinental title to end a very solid opener for the show.
Match 2: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian for the European Championship
The European Championship had a short five-year run in WWE between 1997 and 2002, but some of the best wrestlers of all-time held the title, including Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero.
New Jersey's own Diamond Dallas Page defended the belt against Christian (a native of Ontario, Canada) at X8, which prompted one of the best random lines of commentary of the night from Jerry Lawler: “The European people would really like to have someone who’s truly international represent them. Right now, with Diamond Dallas Page as champion, spirits are low in Liverpool.”
Christian tried to annoy the crowd in Toronto by having Howard Finkel announce him as “now hailing from Tampa, Florida.” At the end of a very average six-minute match, DDP retained his title by hitting what felt like a Diamond Cutter outta' nowhere. He would drop the title two days later on SmackDown to William Regal.
Backstage segment: The Rock and Jonathan Coachman deliver a classic promo
The Rock and current SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman had a special chemistry with each other, and the People's Champ humiliated Coach in a promo for his match with Hulk Hogan by forcing him to drop to his knees and pray. When Coachman began his prayer by saying “What up G,” The Rock kicked him off screen and addressed Hogan as only The Rock can:
“Whatcha gonna do, Hulk Hogan, when you face The Rock tonight, when you’ve got butterflies in your Hulka-stomach and you reach down to feel if you’ve still got a Hulka-strudel?”
Match 3: Goldust vs. Maven for the Hardcore Championship
Tough Enough winner and Hardcore Champion Maven put his belt on the line against The Bizarre One. Goldust is a comedic character in WWE currently, and many fans may not remember the days when he was a legitimate force in the ring in the Attitude Era days. Goldust dominated the match using trash cans and a shovel that was painted gold, but ultimately lost in a surprise finish.
The idea of the Hardcore title was that it had to be defended 24/7, which led to a lot of backstage attacks when the champion wasn't expecting it on weekly shows. At X8, after Goldust and Maven simultaneously bashed each other in the head with a trashcan lid, Spike Dudley sprinted into the ring and pinned Maven to win the title – the first of five Hardcore title changes that night – then ran into the crowd to try and escape.
Drowning Pool "tells the story" of the Triple H-Chris Jericho main event
This was supposed to set up the eventual main event somehow, but it was really just a very 2002 band performing while a video of Jericho-Triple H highlights played in the background.
Backstage segment: Al Snow and Teddy Long are out of control on a golf cart
The Hardcore title fights continued backstage, and Al Snow brought his own referee to the brawl (future SmackDown GM Teddy Long) on a golf cart… which he drove into a huge stack of boxes. The Hurricane swooped in on a rope to attack and pin Spike Dudley and become the new champ.
Match 4: Kurt Angle vs. Kane
This is the hidden gem of the show and is arguably the best pure wrestling match of the night. Angle was greeted by relentless “you suck” chants from the crowd, and before Kane's entrance he called out Canada's gold-medal winning figure skaters, who had their medals upgraded as a result of the scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Kane, meanwhile, was in phenomenal shape and looked every bit like the monster he once was in WWE.
There were no real stakes to the Angle-Kane match, which keeps it from being well-remembered – but it's clear both men were working to make the other look great in the ring. Kane refused to tap out to the Ankle Lock, but was pinned on a roll-up after Angle cheated and used the ropes for leverage while the referee wasn't paying attention.
Backstage segment: The Hurricane peeps on The Godfather's "escorts"
When you watch Attitude Era WWE, there are a few moments from just about every show that definitely wouldn't fly in 2016. The best example from WrestleMania X8 is this skit featuring the Hardcore champion and his “broom.” Hurricane rushes into a dressing room while trying to hide from other challengers, and happens to end up in a room where The Godfather's ladies are comparing their anatomy.
Match 5: The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair
The Undertaker, in his American Badass character, entered WrestleMania X8 with his streak at 9-0. The story behind Undertaker vs. The Nature Boy was rich. Flair was the WWE “co-owner” at the time following the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW, and he interfered in The Undertaker's match against The Rock at No Way Out the month before, hitting Undertaker with a lead pipe.
The Undertaker responded by challenging Flair to a match at WrestleMania, and when Flair declined, Undertaker attacked his longtime friend Arn Anderson and son David Flair. Flair retaliated on an episode of SmackDown and accidentally punched a “fan,” resulting in his arrest and the loss of power as a WWE executive. The narrative set the stage for a match where two men believably wanted to beat each other to a pulp, which is exactly what happened.
Flair vs. Undertaker was the longest match of the night at 18 minutes and 47 seconds, and the opening wasn't as much of wrestling match as it was a streetfight. The two legends traded punches for a few minutes before the action spilled outside the ring, where Flair suffers an obviously intentional cut that leaves him gushing blood.
Flair quickly becomes a bloody mess, with his blond hair drenched in red. With Flair badly damaged, The Undertaker repeatedly toyed with his opponent by pulling him out of a pin as the referee got to a two-count, but Flair eventually busted open The Undertaker's forehead by smashing a lead pipe off his skull.
Jerry Lawler hilariously tried to explain why The Undertaker’s minor cut ont he cheek was a lot more severe than Flair’s laceration: “It’s the blond hair, it shows up a lot more. Undertaker’s hair is soaked with blood!”
Arn Anderson interfered in the match and hit a signature spinebuster on the Undertaker, but he was quickly busted open by The Undertaker and dispatched of. Arguably the best moment of the match is The Undertaker performing his “sit up” revival while locked in the Figure Four and choking a stunned Flair. The Undertaker needed just one Tombstone Piledriver to put away Flair and improve to 10-0 all-time.
Undertaker vs. Flair is the type of bloody, brutal Attitude Era slugfest we don't see anymore in WWE, but it's also a great example of how two veterans can tell a compelling in-ring story without a lot of technical wrestling moves or repeated finishers.
Match 6: Booker T vs. Edge
All you really need to know about this match was summed up by this fan's excellent sign. A Japanese shampoo company was looking for a WWE star to endorse their product, and Booker T and Edge were fighting over that honor. Jim Ross and the King spent the majority of the match talking about shampoo, and it was over in six minutes.
Backstage segment: Mighty Molly becomes the Hardcore Champion
The Hardcore Championship merry-go-round continued spinning throughout the night, and “Mighty” Molly Holly betrayed her ally The Hurricane by hitting him with a frying pan to become the new champ.
Match 7: Scott Hall vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
The NWO made their WWE debut in 2002 at No Way Out and made enemies of the WWE's biggest stars, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. The group helped cost Austin the Undisputed Championship, and while The Rock was set up for a match with Hogan, Austin and Scott Hall traded attacks in the weeks leading up to X8. This match isn't particularly well-remembered, as NWO, and particularly Hall, never reached the heights they had earlier in their career in WCW or previously in WWE. Hall has since said that both he and Austin were going through personal issues at the time which hindered their match in Toronto, and that Austin felt he should be the one facing Hogan later in the show.
Still, there are a few flashes of brilliance. Kevin Nash interfered repeatedly in the match before eventually being kicked out by a gaggle of referees all comically smaller than him, and Stone Cold finished off Hall with back-to-back stunners. Hall's reaction to the second – look at the air he gets! – rivals any of The Rock's great over-the-top Stunner sells.
Match 8: A Four-Corners Elimination match for the Tag Team Championships
The Dudley Boyz (with Stacy Keiber), APA, The Hardy Boyz and champions Billy (Gunn) and Chuck (Palumbo) faced each other in a relatively rare match type. Bradshaw and the APA are quickly eliminated, but the bout drags on too long from there.
The lowlight is Stacy Keiber – who was the “Duchess of Dudleyville” at the time trying to seductively distract Jeff Hardy on the apron, only to be spanked, kissed and thrown to the floor. Billy and Chuck retained their titles in the match and would keep them until May's Judgment Day.
Match 9: Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock
Icon vs. Icon. Hogan came into the match as a heel trying to take down the WWE's most beloved stars, but the crowd inside the SkyDome was too elated to see Hogan at WrestleMania for the first time in nine years to boo.
Before either man lays a hand on the other, they stand face to face in the middle of the ring and slowly survey the crowd around them. Seeing two of the biggest stars in the history of the business was a special moment in time, and the way both The Rock and Hogan acknowledge the importance of the moment in the ring makes you feel like you're watching something that will never happen again. It's a feat that very few matchups in WWE could ever accomplish.
The actual wrestling within Hogan vs. Rock isn't mind-blowing by any means, but the unbelievable electric atmosphere makes even the simplest moves feel momentous. The best sequence of WrestleMania X8 – and undoubtedly one of the best moments in WrestleMania history – comes when Hogan channels his classic character and Hulks up after kicking out of the Rock Bottom. The crowd inside the SkyDome explodes, and The Rock's expression when Hogan points at him is priceless. Hogan hits his signature Leg Drop, but The Rock kicks out and responds with back-to-back Rock Bottoms.
The Rock wins the match (and wins over the crowd) with The People's Elbow, and a battered Hogan offers The Rock a handshake as a show of respect. After The Rock exits the ring, NWO emerges and attacks Hogan for aligning himself with The Rock, but The Rock returns to the ring and fights off Hall and Nash. Hogan would later leave NWO entirely and return to his classic yellow-and-red Hulkamania character.
The Rock and Hogan share a few more moments in the ring together, seemingly competing to see who can put the other over more. For The Rock, beating the greatest professional wrestler of all-time will likely remain the highlight of his career.
Match 10: Jazz vs. Lita vs. Trish Stratus for the Women's Championship
The downside of Rock vs. Hogan is that it was impossible to follow. Both of the remaining matches on the X8 card suffered from the crowd seemingly being exhausted and out of energy.
The women's triple threat match went just six minutes, and it clearly suffered from being rushed. The match looked as if it was being conested in fast-foward, as Jazz, Lita and Trish worked at a frenetic pace to get their own moves in, and Jazz eventually retained with a fisherman's suplex off the turnbuckle. JR remarked on commentary that the match “looked like a car wreck,” which is probably the best way to describe it.
Match 11: Chris Jericho vs. Triple H for the Undisputed Championship
In the main event of WrestleMania X8 – more than three hours after the event began – Chris Jericho (joined by his new manager Stephanie McMahon) faced Triple H for the Undisputed title. Triple H and Stephanie's marriage was hurtling toward divorce in the buildup to X8. Stephanie faked a pregnancy to deceive Triple H, a plot that was foiled by her own mother Linda McMahon, which led to the future Authority splitting up and McMahon aligning with Chris Jericho. Triple H won the 2002 Royal Rumble to earn his spot in the WrestleMania main event, but lost it temporarily after McMahon interfered in his match with Kurt Angle at No Way Out.
Triple H had a Hulk Hogan-level tan.
Triple H looked as if he stepped out from under a waterfall just before the match began, but he looked to be in amazing shape having returned from a long recovery from a torn quadriceps muscle. Triple H's weakened leg would play a huge part in the match – Jericho worked his leg relentlessly and even locked in a brutal Figure Four on the ringpost – and Triple H made it seem as if his knee could buckle at any moment.
Jericho and Triple H put on a great match, but the crowd was uncharacteristically quiet for much of it, likely still recovering from the Rock-Hogan match earlier. Had this match come earlier on the card, or had it come on a different show, it would likely stand out a lot more. For the finish, Jericho attempts to hit a Pedigree on Triple H but The Game is able to reverse it, then hit his own finisher on Jericho for the victory. Triple H's reign was short-lived, however, as he'd drop the title a month later at Backlash to Hulk Hogan.