WrestleMania XX - Background

Background

The main rivalry heading into the pay-per-view was on the Raw brand, with Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit feuding over the World Heavyweight Championship. This would mark the third pay per view event that Triple H would defend a World Championship at Madison Square Garden. The first event was January 2000 at the Royal Rumble, where Triple H retained the then-known WWF Championship over Cactus Jack. The second event at the same arena was in November 2002 at Survivor Series, where Triple H defended the World Championship in the 1st ever Six man Elimination Chamber match, which was won by Shawn Michaels. Triple H was the champion heading into the WrestleMania XX event with the origins of the rivalry beginning on the December 29, 2003 episode of Raw, when Michaels challenged Triple H for the World title in Michaels' hometown of San Antonio, Texas. As it looked like Michaels was going to win his 5th World title over Triple H, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff got to the ring at the last minute and made the pinfall but stopped at a 2 count, thus screwing Michaels in the process. At the Royal Rumble event on January 25, Triple H and Michaels faced each other again in a Last Man Standing match for the title, which resulted in a draw, and, as a result, Triple H retained the title, leaving question on who was the better of the two. Also at the pay-per-view, in the Royal Rumble match, SmackDown!'s Benoit won the contest by last eliminating The Big Show. The following night, on the January 26 edition of Raw, Michaels and Triple H were involved in an in-ring confrontation when Raw's authority figure (referred to as the "Sheriff"), Steve Austin, made his way to the ring. He stated that, although Michaels should have a rematch, he had to "enforce the law". He stated that, in the rules it specifies that the winner of the Royal Rumble may face either the WWE Champion or World Heavyweight Champion. The winner of the Royal Rumble, Benoit, made his way to the ring, and stated that he would be challenging the World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XX. On the February 9, 2004 edition of Raw, a contract signing took place between Benoit and World Champion, Triple H. As Triple H signed his name on the paper, Michaels came out to inform Benoit that the last thing he wanted to do is rain on his parade. He then stated that he more than anybody can respect Benoit's effort to win the Royal Rumble match and earning a World title shot but suggested that Benoit could've stayed on SmackDown! to take care of business while Michaels, himself, was trying to finish his 10 year issue with Triple H on behalf of the Raw brand. He last stated that he is this close to finishing his rivalry and plans to do so at WrestleMania XX for the World title. Benoit responded by saying that it's just not going to happen and stated that he's the one who challenges Triple H for the World title, not Michaels. After Michaels responded by superkicking Benoit, he then signed his own name on the paper as the challenger to Triple H's World Championship. On the following week's episode of Raw, Michaels defeated Benoit due to interference by Triple H. Afterwards, Steve Austin appeared and announced that Triple H would be defending his World Championship at WrestleMania against both Michaels and Benoit in a Triple threat match. On the March 1, 2004 edition of Raw, after Michaels and Benoit lost to Randy Orton and Batista in a tag team match, World Champion, Triple H and the rest of Evolution attacked Michaels and Benoit, ending with Triple H nailing them with the Pedigree and rubbing his World title belt into their faces while they were laying motionless in the ring.

The main feud on the SmackDown! brand was between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship. In the beginning of 2004, Angle and Guerrero were allies while Guerrero feuded with his nephew Chavo Guerrero. On the January 29, 2004 edition of SmackDown!, Eddie Guerrero last eliminated Angle in a 15-man Royal Rumble style match to earn a shot at the WWE Championship. At the prior pay per view, No Way Out, Kurt Angle defeated The Big Show and John Cena in a Triple threat match to earn himself a title shot at WrestleMania on the same event where Guerrero defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE title. On the February 19, 2004 edition of SmackDown!, Angle was the special guest referee in a match between WWE Champion, Eddie Guerrero and WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Chavo Guerrero. As Eddie was about to close in on the victory, Angle stopped the 3 count and would turn on Guerrero. On the following week's edition of SmackDown!, Guerrero was eagar get his revenge on Angle while looking for him but when he finally saw Angle, he shoved SmackDown General Manager, Paul Heyman and his assistant Dawn Marie out of his way only for Heyman to have Guerrero escorted out of the arena by security. Guerrero was scheduled to team with John Cena to take on Chavo Guerrero and the Big Show in a tag team match on that night but due to Guerrero being escorted out of the arena, he was replaced by Rey Mysterio for the tag match, which Mysterio and Cena won. Later that night, Angle appeared and stated that he attacked Guerrero for the SmackDown! fans and for the WWE. He then referred to Guerrero as a former drug addict that shouldn't represent SmackDown! as the WWE Champion and stated that one day people will be thanking him for a champion that they could be proud of. Guerrero then came back to the arena and assaulted Angle until he got arrested by orders of Paul Heyman. As Guerrero got taken out of the building in handcuffs, Angle made some insulting comments to him until the officers drove away with Guerrero in the Police car. On the March 4, 2004 edition of SmackDown!, during Guerrero's match with Heyman (while he was handcuffed), Angle interfered and knocked him down a few times until Guerrero defended himself by spitting on Angle. As Guerrero begged Angle to nail him with the WWE Championship belt, Angle did so and raised title the belt over-head to show an example for their match Wrestlemania XX.

This also marks the first WrestleMania to have a match billed as "interpromotional", which means that a party from Raw would wrestle a party from SmackDown!. WWE owner, Vince McMahon, named three matches to be interpromotional on the February 16 edition of Raw. The first was a match a tag team match featuring SmackDown!'s Torrie Wilson and Sable, who had recently been featured in a pictorial in Playboy magazine, against Raw's Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie, who had protested the decision made by Hugh Hefner to not feature them.

The next match was made at the request of Kane, who had been receiving threats from his storyline brother, The Undertaker. This would mark the 2nd WrestleMania event that the Undertaker and Kane would go one-on-one with the first being WrestleMania XIV six years prior. In November 2003 at Survivor Series, Kane defeated Shane McMahon in an Ambulance match then during the latter event, he interfered and buried The Undertaker alive in the Undertaker's match with Vince McMahon. On the November 20, 2003 edition of SmackDown, Kane appeared to give the Eulogy for the Undertaker. Kane claimed that the man as the Undertaker the world knew, has been dead for a long time because they were monsters and lived to strike fear into the hearts of normal men until the Undertaker portrayed himself (in the American Bad Ass/Big Evil persona) and became one of the fans. Kane stated that he watched Undertaker show compassion by defending Stephanie McMahon (during her feud with Vince McMahon) and show weakness in losing to Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Mercy. He then stated that Undertaker was not his brother nor a monster cause' a monster shows no compassion nor has weaknesses. He referred to Undertaker as an impostor and a fraud that he buried alive and ended the eulogy by saying R.I.P. Two months later, Kane participated in the Royal Rumble match where he heard the bell toll from the Undertaker's entrance music, distracting and distressing him and enabling Booker T to eliminate him from the ring. Over the following weeks, Kane repeatedly insisted that The Undertaker was "dead", only to be met with various paranormal incidents such as a rainstorm localized over the ramp on which he stood. On the last edition of Raw, Kane appeared to the ring and saw an empty Casket standing in the ring but as he opened it, he saw an urn inside of it. He then grabbed the microphone and asked if that's what he's been looking forward to. He also stated it's going to take more than an empty casket and an urn to intimidate and beat him. He then stated that the Undertaker's legacy, his 11–0 WrestleMania steak and his life is coming to an end as he said "it's back to the grave for you for good". As he claimed that It's over and that he's not afraid of the Undertaker. The lights turned out but this time, the 10,000 pound wrestling ring lifted off the ground with Kane standing in it and tilted side ways, which would be the final message sent from the Undertaker before their match at WrestleMania XX.

On the January 26, episode of Raw, Goldberg came to the ring, and demanded a match himself against Brock Lesnar, with whom he had problems over the past two months. The night before, Goldberg was entered in the Royal Rumble match, only to have Lesnar (who, as the reigning WWE Champion, was not entered into the match) interfered, causing Goldberg to be eliminated by Kurt Angle. The following week on an episode of Raw, as a result of the rivalry extending between the two programs, General Manager Steve Austin gave Goldberg the option of attending No Way Out by giving him a front-row ticket. At the No Way Out event, Goldberg was seen arriving at the arena and being escorted to his front seat by security. Then SmackDown General Manager, Paul Heyman gave a promotional in-ring segment on how SmackDown! was the better program over Raw. Lesnar would come down to the ring to promote his match and to insult Goldberg. Goldberg immediately jumped over the barricade into the ring, where Lesnar performed a running shoulder block to Goldberg's stomach; however he recuperated and lifted Lesnar vertically in the air before slamming him down to perform the Jackhammer. Goldberg was then escorted out of the arena by security. During Lesnar's WWE title defense against Eddie Guerrero later that night, Goldberg returned to the arena and interfered by executing a spear, which caused Lesnar to lose the title after Guerrero nailed him with a Frog splash. On the February 22, 2004 episode of Raw, Vince McMahon named the Interpromotional singles match pitting Lesnar versus Goldberg for WrestleMania XX with Steve Austin as the special guest referee. During the match between McMahon and Eric Bischoff, Lesnar appeared on Raw and nailed Steve Austin with an F-5 then stole Austin's four-wheeler. A few days later on SmackDown!, Lesnar stated that he appeared on Raw just to get back at Austin for giving Goldberg the front-row seat ticket and suggesting that Goldberg would attack Lesnar at No Way Out. Behind the scenes, it was widely known that the match would be Goldberg's last in WWE. Only a week before WrestleMania, however, rumors surfaced that Lesnar, too, was leaving in order to pursue a career in the National Football League. On the last edition of SmackDown! prior to WrestleMania, Steve Austin appeared to get his fourwheeler back from Lesnar only for the entire roster to get in his way by orders of SmackDown! General manager Paul Heyman. Moments later, the entire roster had decided to move aside and let Austin by to confront Lesnar in the ring. As Austin got to the ring, he and Lesnar traded punches with Austin attempting to nail Lesnar with the Stone Cold stunner only for Lesnar to escape, leaving Austin to finally get back his fourwheeler and closing in on the show with his trademark beer bash.

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