The Road Through the Past: WWE Backlash 2002

Welcome back to my new series of columns reviewing past WWE shows, and we move on from WrestleMania to Backlash, still in the year 2002.

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Just a quick note for any newbies, the format of the reviews will be quite simplistic, I had envisioned a full play-by-play transcript of every punch, kick and move, but there’s only so much I believe you good people are willing to read, so I’ll try to condense it into manageable sizes for you to enjoy. For a quicker assessment you can always see the standardised “star rating” and verdict that will be after every match.

Every match will have the events that brought us to the point of the contest, backstage attacks, scything promos, or any previous matches between the opponents. There will also be descriptions and judgments of any promos or segments shown during the event.

So, here we go with the first show after the very first WWE draft (or “brand extension” as it was being lobbied as), an event which set up huge new matches like Austin vs. Undertaker, and Edge vs. Kurt Angle. Oh. Well there were some advantages I’m sure. For anyone interested, SmackDown! matches will be highlighted blue, RAW matches in red.

WWE Backlash 2002

Date: April 29th, 2002
Location: Kansas City, Missouri

Attitude? Entertainment? Why this must be the WWF! Opening video shows Hogan’s return to Hulkamania, and HHH’s desire to wrestle Hogan, but his sadness at having to put his childhood hero away. More Hulkamania stuff, more HHH telling us that he’s great. Hogan needs to win to prove he is the greatest. HHH tells us he’s the greatest. Tonight will prove who is the greatest. Great.

BANG BANG BANG BANG PYRO time, and the crowd seems to enjoy them. We are on a seven year tape delay from the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri and as ever our hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

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Match #1
WWF Cruiserweight Title Match
Billy Kidman (c) vs. Tajiri

How It Came To This

With the draft came an opportunity for the long forgotten cruiserweight division to get more air time, and this was the first feud built during that. Tajiri began a heel turn after Kidman had started befriending Torrie backstage (although their marriage was never specifically mentioned), and Kidman ended up defeating Tajiri for the Cruiserweight title after Torrie stopped Tajiri from cheating. Tajiri responded by making Torrie dress in full length kimonos to hide her entire body, and shouted at her a lot in Japanese. Tajiri was granted his rematch at Backlash (that’s now!) and defeated Kidman in a tag match three days before the PPV.

The Match

Torrie is dressed in her kimono again, and The King is upset at that. I have no idea why JR and Lawler are calling a SmackDown! match. Kidman actually gets a few cheers, possibly the first kind of crowd reaction he’s ever got. Lock-up turns into a shoving contest which Kidman wins, Kidman ducks a kick, Tajiri ducks a clothesline, they trade arm drags and Tajiri drop toe holds Kidman into the corner. They trade knife edge chops, before Kidman goes for a hurracanrana, but gets caught and tossed, but lands on the second rope and dropkicks Tajiri. Yikes this is fast. Hurracanrana connects from Kidman and Tajiri bails outside, dragging Kidman with him and swinging him on to the security wall. Back inside and Tajiri hits a slam and a knee drop, and then chokes Kidman on the bottom rope, before heading outside and nailing a roundhouse kick to Kidman’s skull. Tajiri back in for a resthold rear chinlock (sigh), Kidman gets out after eighteen seconds and snaps off another hurracanrana, but Tajiri responds with a tilt-a-whirl back breaker. Kidman put in the TREE OF WOE, and Tajiri hits a baseball slide to the face. Tajiri bends Kidman’s back around the ringpost, then back inside for a backbreaker hold that lasts another twenty seconds. Tajiri whips Kidman into the corner, but Kidman avoids the Tarantula, but not for long as Tajiri locks it in further down the ropes.

Kidman ducks a KO Kick, and then reverses the springboard reverse elbow with a dropkick. But Tajiri takes back control with a kick to the back of the head, then a bridging German suplex for a two count. Tajiri gets sent into the corner, but ducks a clothesline and hits a STIFF kick for a two count. Tajiri tries a powerbomb, but YOU CAN’T POWERBOMB KIDMAN. Kidman hits an X-Factor like move for another two count, before dragging Tajiri towards the corner. Kidman tries the Shooting Star Press, but Tajiri moves. BIG KICK to the side of the head, 1, 2, NO! The crowd start a “Kidman” chant (again, first time for everything), and Tajiri sets Kidman up on the top rope for a superplex, but Kidman reverses into a BK Bomb! 1, 2, No! Tajiri kicks out this time. Wow, this is actually quite good. Kidman tries to powerbomb Tajiri, but he gets misted in mid-air. RED MIST as well! Kidman is lucky not to be blind now. Tajiri covers, 1, 2, 3! Meet the new Cruiserweight champion, same as the old Cruiserweight champion. Michael Cole earns his nightly pay check by asking Tajiri about his change in attitude, but gets Japanese spoken back at him. It gives me a chance to notice the Cruiserweight title still has the WCW logo on it.

Winner: Tajiri
Time: 9:07
Rating: ***

Verdict: Maybe it was the sudden re-interest in the Cruiserweight division that gave these guys a shot in the arm, but whatever it was they put on a decent ten-minute match to open the show. Obviously this was “cruiserweight division push that ends up as nothing #139” and it didn’t lead anywhere, but they put a lot of effort into this match, and the near falls at the end made things pretty exciting.

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Bradshaw is hanging out backstage waiting for his match later on tonight. Faarooq joins him, and THE APA RE-UNITE! THIS IS TRULY HISTORIC! They’ve been apart for less than three weeks. They catch up about the incredible adventures they’ve had in those 20 days, but they are interrupted by what I guess the nWo’s music playing (although it’s not licenced for my DVD)…

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Match #2
Bradshaw vs. Scott Hall

How It Came To This

The nWo lost a member at WrestleMania when Hulk Hogan left to reclaim his Hulkamania roots, but they soon replaced him with Kliq member X-Pac, another former nWo member from WCW. After the nWo were drafted to RAW as a unit, and Bradshaw drafted to RAW to split up the APA, Bradshaw became one of the main anti-nWo fighters after the nWo took over the old APA office. Bradshaw continued to help out those being attacked by the nWo, but was too late to help Kane when he was beaten down backstage, which ended up with X-Pac stealing Kane’s mask. Bradshaw was one of four people who interfered in a #1 Contender’s match that Hall lost to Steve Austin, before Austin and Bradshaw teamed up to defeat Hall, X-Pac and The Undertaker on the RAW before Backlash.

The Match

My screen goes black and white so that music was the nWo’s, and Hall comes out with X-Pac, who is wearing Kane’s mask. Bradshaw gets quite a big pop on his way out. Bradshaw is faced two on one, but the APA music hits again and Faarooq joins him to even the odds. Another big pop for the three week reunion. Loud “APA” chant too. Let the battle of Fallaway Slams begin! Bradshaw fires off punches to start and clubs away at Hall in the corner, before hitting a DDT for a two count. Hall bails outside but gets met by Faarooq’s right hands (shouldn’t that be a DQ?) and Hall gets sent back in for another two count. More clubbing from Bradshaw and a suplex gets another two count. More right hands knock Hall down for another two count, and Hall fires back with some right hands of his own. Hall chokes Bradshaw on the middle rope, and X-Pac gets a cheap shot in.

They trade right hands again, because punches are the in thing apparently, before Hall whips Bradshaw into the corner and follows up with a clothesline. Hall stomps Bradshaw down, but Bradshaw explodes out of the corner with a shoulder block. More right hands from Bradshaw, then a back elbow, and a big boot knocks Hall to the mat. Bradshaw then whips Hall into the corner and follows with a clothesline, but Hall reverses a second attempt. Hall follows in, but Bradshaw moves and comes off the ropes, CLOTHESLINE FROM HELL! 1, 2, but X-Pac puts Hall’s foot on the ropes! Faarooq chases after X-Pac, but Bradshaw gets him first, punching him off the apron into Faarooq’s arms, who sends him back first into the ringpost. Meanwhile in the ring, Hall takes advantage of a distracted referee to hit a low blow, turning that into a roll-up, 1, 2, 3! Hall steals the victory. Hall sells his mouth and X-Pac sells his back, and I just thank God that’s over.

Winner: Scott Hall
Time: 6:10
Rating: 1/4*

Verdict: What a horrible match, nothing but punches, punches, clubbing blows and more punches. The crowd’s early enthusiasm saves it from being a complete wreck, but there was so little action it became embarrassing. The only two wrestling moves in the entire thing was a suplex and a DDT from Bradshaw, and we didn’t even get one Fallaway Slam from the two men who use the move more than anyone. Simply rubbish.

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Well here comes Vince McMahon, he’s our SmackDown! owner in case you had forgotten, marching into Ric Flair’s office, he’s our RAW owner. ARN ANDERSON is with Flair. Vince is here to congratulate Flair on realising the perils of being an owner, that he can’t please everyone and nobody trusts him. Vince doesn’t understand though why Flair would make himself guest referee for the match between Austin and Undertaker tonight. Flair tells Vince he can’t relate to him, and he’ll never know who the Nature Boy is. Flair says he’ll never be like Vince McMahon. Vince says he could try. Well that was tense. Sorry, not tense, pointless.

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Match #3
WWF Women’s Title Match
Jazz (c) vs. Trish Stratus

How It Came To This

The Women’s champion, at this point Jazz, was allowed to appear on both brands. Jazz had defeated Trish for the Women’s Title, and defended her title against Lita and Trish at WrestleMania X8. In a match between Trish and Molly Holly, Jazz interjected herself and slammed Trish in the head with her Women’s title belt, allowing Molly to get the win. The next week Trish defeated Molly in a #1 Contender’s Match, using the tights during a roll-up after Molly had tried the same thing.

The Match

Before we get started, Molly Holly is out to intervene, allowing King to make “virgin” jokes. She mocks Trish for cheating and flaunting her body around. Molly says the Women’s champion should be pure and wholesome. She then punches Trish in the face and throws her outside. Trish fights back, but Molly sends her back first into the ring steps. Here comes Jazz who wastes no time in taking advantage of the situation. Trish is sent into the corner and Jazz follows up with a sidewalk slam for a two count. Trish manages to drop Jazz on the top rope, but Jazz takes back control with a fireman’s carry slam. JR calls Jazz “Mike Tyson-like”, which seems a bit harsh. But to prove his point Jazz starts punching away at Trish, but Trish reverses a big right and connects with a Chick Kick for a two count.

Trish chops and stomps away at Jazz in the corner, before setting her up on the top rope and hitting her Stratusphere hurracanrana. Neckbreaker from Trish gets a two count, but Jazz reverses an Irish whip and connects with a sit-down powerbomb (Batista Bomb?) for another two count. Jazz chokes Trish on the bottom rope, then whips her into the corner but misses a Stinger Splash; Trish rolls her up for a two count. Trish goes for the Stratusfaction, but Jazz is able to reverse into a back suplex for a two count. Another whip into the corner from Jazz, and she catches Trish’s boot as she follows in, allowing her to hit a dragon screw. Boston Crab locked in by Jazz, and Trish is forced to crawl towards the ropes, but Jazz drags her back into the centre of the ring, and locks in an STF. Trish has no choice, and is forced to tap out! That actually took me by surprise. Jazz is spoken to my Marc Lloyd afterwards, but just glares at him and walks off.

Winner: Jazz
Time: 4:25
Rating: **

Verdict: Not bad at all considering it was given less than five minutes, Jazz worked on Trish’s back throughout, and nobody botched any moves like during the horrible Women’s Title match at WrestleMania. Like I said, the ending caught me by surprise as I thought Trish won this match to regain the title, but the finish made perfect sense with the psychology of the match, so it’s fine by me.

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Brock Lesnar is backstage with Agent Paul E. Heyman as Heyman hypes up his client for his match with Jeff Hardy tonight. No regret, no remorse, and this is Lita’s fault for not putting out. Time to show the world that Brock Lesnar is the Next Big Thing.

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Match #4
Brock Lesnar vs. Jeff Hardy

How It Came To This

Brock Lesnar debuted on the draft show itself, and began obliterating undercard wrestler after undercard wrestler. He eventually picked on the Hardys, powerbombing Jeff into oblivion whilst his agent Paul Heyman cheered him on. The Hardys attacked him the following week with a steel chair, but whilst the chair was crumpled beyond use, Lesnar remained on his feet during the assault. The next week Heyman visited Lita in her locker room, looking to make a “deal” in exchange for Brock going easy on Matt Hardy at Backlash. Heyman stole her entire bag of thongs, luring Matt to try to attack him, where Lesnar attacked him and gave him the F5 on the steel ramp. Jeff Hardy then took his brother’s place in tonight’s match.

The Match

Jeff enters first, beginning his body painting phase that lasts to this day. Lita accompanies him to the ring, and she looks to be on some kind of drug. As does Jeff mind you. Lesnar comes out to his first, even more generic theme, with Heyman by his side. This is in fact Lesnar’s first match, and Jeff attacks to start, but Brock overpowers him and slings him out of the ring. Brock chases Jeff back in, but Jeff dropkicks him off the apron. Brock catches a Hardy plancha but Jeff sends him into the ringpost. Jeff hits a top rope crossbody for a two count, but Brock shoulder thrusts him in the corner, then belly to belly suplexes him over his head. Heyman shouts at Lita that this is her fault, as Brock delivers another belly to belly suplex. Brock picks Jeff up by his belt, and hits his series of backbreakers with ease.

Jeff tries to fight back with right hands, but Brock reverses and sends Jeff flying into the corner, and chokes Jeff. Brock sends Jeff into the opposite corner, but Jeff is able to hit the Whisper in the Wind, and then connects with a jawbreaker. A double leg drop to the groin from Jeff, and Jeff hits the Swanton Bomb! 1, 2, but Brock sends Jeff off of him before the three! Jeff heads outside to grab a steel chair, but Brock ducks a shot, and gets Jeff up to hit the F5! It’s said he landed on the chair, but he was nowhere near it. Heyman tells Brock to hurt Jeff, and here come three Powerbombs. Two to start with, but Jeff doesn’t give up, so Brock gives him a third. Referee Teddy Long stops the match, and gives Brock the victory by KO. Referees come to check on Jeff, who isn’t looking too healthy right now.

Winner: Brock Lesnar
Time: 5:32
Rating: *1/2

Verdict: Say what you want about the WWE’s push of big, muscular guys, but it’s safe to say that they knew Brock was a cut above the majority of them, and gave him this huge push for a reason. It’s a pretty unique ending to a match, certainly one I haven’t seen very often, and really put across just how dangerous Brock Lesnar was. A glorified squash by all accounts, but an entertaining one purely because of Brock’s power, and Jeff’s selling was pretty good throughout.

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Match #5
Edge vs. Kurt Angle

How It Came To This

Edge defeated Angle in a tag match on RAW after WrestleMania, and then Edge and Kurt Angle were both drafted to SmackDown! as two of the more high profile names. Former allies as part of Team ECK, that changed when the fun-loving Edge annoyed Angle with some prank photographs. The two had a match on the 4th April that ended by DQ when Edge gave Angle a Spear, with Angle holding a steel chair at the time. Edge then encouraged the crowd to sing “You Suck” during Angle’s entrance music, but Angle then cost Edge a match against Chris Jericho, and gave Edge an Angle Slam on the concrete floor backstage. Edge continued to take Angle out whenever Angle interfered in other matches, and thus we arrive at tonight.

The Match

Angle comes out to the aforementioned “You Suck” chanting, and my DVD again fails at licences as Edge comes out to an audio dub of his old music. Edge sends Angle off the ropes to start, but Angle knocks him down with a shoulderblock. Angle charges into some Edge right hands, and backs Angle into the corner to hit some more. Angle whipped into the corner, but he gets his elbow up. Angle charges, but Edge connects with a dropkick, then sends Angle off the ropes and hits a one-man flapjack. Edge clotheslines Angle outside, and poses for the fans for a bit. Angle takes a break, but suckers Edge in and drags him out. Edge connects with some more right hands and sends Angle inside, but Angle stomps on Edge as he climbs back in. Right hands from Angle, but Edge reverses a whip and hits a spinning wheel kick, only to miss a clothesline and Angle is able to hit a German Suplex. Angle punches away at Edge in the corner, and then unleashes some chops, but Edge reverses and hits some chops of his own. Edge whips Angle to the corner, but Angle reverses and hits a belly to belly suplex as Edge stumbles out, then covers for a two count. Edge fights back with some right hands but Angle kicks him in the gut and delivers a suplex for another two count. Rear chinlock gives me a resthold to complain about, complete with raising arm three times to see if he’s out. Edge breaks it after fifty seconds in the hold, but not for long as Angle hits another German suplex.

Edge reverses another German suplex attempt, and manages to connect with a belly to belly suplex, leaving both men down. Referee gets to six on a double count out, and a slugfest ensues, with Edge knocking Angle down with a flying forearm and a clothesline. Edge whips Angle off the ropes and hits a back body drop. Edge sends Angle into the corner, waits for him, KICK WHAM EDGUCUTION! But it only gets two. Angle fights back but Edge reverses a back suplex, and hits a half nelson face buster, and gets another two count. Edge heads to the top rope, but Angle gets up and speeds up to meet him, throwing him off to the mat below. That gets Angle a two count, so he goes for the Ankle Lock, but Edge kicks him away. Angle goes for a German suplex but Edge grabs the ropes and elbow him away. No such luck the second time though, as Angle ducks a clothesline and hits a German suplex, rolls over and hits a second, then completes the trifecta with a bridge for a two count. Angle poises ready to hit the Angle Slam, but Edge reverses and hits a German suplex of his own, Angle rotating fully and landing on the top of his head. Ouch. Both men are counted out until seven, and Angle is up first charging at Edge, but Edge sends him up and over the top rope. Edge heads to the top rope, and hits a diving crossbody to Angle on the outside.

Angle rolls back inside, but Edge heads to the top rope again to hit a missile dropkick, 1, 2, No! Angle rolls the shoulder out. Edge goes for the Edgucution again, but Angle counters and hits the Angle Slam! 1, 2, Edge kicks out! And the STRAPS ARE DOWN! Ankle Lock applied! Edge crawls to the ropes, but Angle drags him back to the centre of the ring. But after 27 seconds in the hold, Edge reverses it into a roll-up for a very close 2 count. Crowd certainly bought that as the finish, as did I. Angle clotheslines Edge down, and bangs the mat in frustration. Angle heads outside and grabs a steel chair, threatening the referee on his way back in, but misses with a swing and hits the top rope, the chair bouncing back into his face! Edge hits the Edge-O-Matic, but Angle just kicks out after a two count! Crowd are really into this one now, as Angle rakes the eyes of Edge and goes back to the chair, but Edge kicks him in the face and the referee removes it from the ring. Edge goes for the Spear, but Angle gets his knee up in time, causing Edge to run into it face first. Angle Slam again! Angle covers, 1, 2, 3! Wow, that came from nowhere, maybe I’ve just been conditioned into thinking the Angle Slam isn’t a finisher. Jerry Lawler gives Angle a standing ovation as Angle makes his way up the ramp.

Winner: Kurt Angle
Time: 13:23
Rating: ****

Verdict: Really entertaining match from these two, high impact offense all the way through, and a superb finishing sequence with several near falls to keep the crowd on the edge of their seat. Looking at the rest of the card, nothing is likely to top this.

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Time to take a peak at WWF New York, where Tazz is situated. His job is to ask the WWF New York customers who they think will win tonight’s main event. Results are 3-3, with all the non-Americans voting for Hogan, all the Americans voting for HHH.

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And after that, we see Chris Jericho making his way to the ring, and even the announcers are wondering why he doesn’t have a match tonight. So we can assume he is out here to speak to us, and indeed he is. Jericho speaks for me by asking why he doesn’t have a match, just thirty days after main eventing WrestleMania. He compares himself to the fans, just there to watch, except the fans are jackasses. Billy Kidman had a match, Trish Stratus had a match, and Maven will have a match, but he doesn’t which offends and insults him. And it hurts his feelings. But he’s still happy that, even on this horrible day, he’s better than all the fans and Hulk Hogan. The fans seem to think that Hogan deserves a title shot more than Jericho, which I disagree with strongly. Jericho mocks the Hulkamaniacs, saying Hogan will never win the title again. Hogan isn’t worthy of being a champion, but Jericho is. As he doesn’t have a match, Jericho decides to leave, sending a message of “screw all of you” to Kansas City on his way out.

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Who needs wrestling on a PPV? We head backstage to Ric Flair and ARN ANDERSON, with Flair assuring Arn that there will be a #1 Contender made tonight. The Undertaker enters the room to put his point across, although he just stares at Flair, stares at Flair’s referee badge, then points his finger up. Arn tells Flair to keep his eye on him.

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Match #6
WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Rob Van Dam (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero

How It Came To This

Eddie Guerrero made a surprise return to the WWF after over a year’s absence due to rehab-related issues, attacking RVD and giving him his version of the Frog Splash. Eddie then attacked RVD during a #1 Contenders match against The Undertaker, costing him a chance to fight for the Undisputed Title. Eddie gave his reason that RVD stole his finishing move, the Frog Splash, and he’s come to take it back. Eddie and William Regal then defeated RVD and Spike Dudley in a tag match on the show before Backlash.

The Match

Eddie enters first, with JR going through his entire family lineage; RVD enters without any family history, but with some pointing to himself. JR burns Lawler by pointing out D’Lo Brown as the first person to use the Frog Splash in the WWF, whilst RVD points to himself again and gets a right hand for his trouble. RVD ducks a right and sends Eddie off the ropes, Eddie goes over RVD’s back, but RVD connects with a spin kick. RVD sends Eddie into the corner and follows in with a monkey flip, before hitting a spinning heel kick for a two count. Eddie catches an RVD kick and hits a dragon screw, then focuses on the knee of RVD in the corner. RVD reverses a whip to hit some shoulder thrusts, but Eddie takes back control, beating RVD down in the corner until the referee Tim White tells him to stop. RVD reverses and gives Eddie another kick to the head, and a standing moonsault gets a two count. Suplex from RVD gets another two count, before slamming Eddie and heading to the top, but Eddie is up fast and RVD lands on the turnbuckle groin first. Eddie joins RVD on the top rope, but RVD blocks a superplex attempt by hanging Eddie up on the top rope.

RVD back up top, and connects with a top rope kick, and then a cartwheel moonsault gets another two count. Eddie reverses an RVD suplex attempt to a small package for a 2 count, and then reverses a suplex into another roll-up for another two count. Eddie rolls outside, but RVD connects with a baseball slide, then a moonsault off the apron connects. RVD then sets Eddie up on the barricade, and hits his spinning leg drop from the apron. Back into the ring and RVD gets a two count, before he tries for Rolling Thunder, but Eddie gets his knees up. Eddie sends RVD off the ropes and hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, followed by a back suplex which gets a two count. Eddie takes RVD down with a drop toe hold, and locks in a Mexican surfboard stretch, nearly bending RVD in half. RVD lasts 32 seconds before getting out, but Eddie maintains control, getting RVD up into a Gory stretch, which doesn’t look all that painful. RVD flips out into a sunset flip for a two count, but Eddie clotheslines him down to the mat. Eddie sends RVD off the rope and hits a jumping calf kick, then heads to the apron, flipping over the top rope to hit a hilo for a two count.

Eddie starts to attack RVD’s arm, before getting a wristlock and heading to the top rope to hit a hurracanrana, getting him another two count. Eddie hits a suplex, rolling through to hit a side suplex, and getting another two count. Eddie’s feeling froggy, and heads to the top rope, but RVD kicks one of his legs away, then kicks him in the head. But Eddie fights back, and hits a sunset flip powerbomb(!) for a close two count. Eddie managed to do it without a pause, unlike every Money in the Bank match that has tried it since then. Eddie elbows the head of RVD, and goes for another powerbomb, but RVD reverses into a windmill kick. Eddie rolls outside and gets the Intercontinental Title. He swings, but RVD kicks him in the gut, but in grabbing the title he knocks down referee Tim White, and Eddie takes advantage to hit a neckbreaker on the title. Eddie heads up top, and here’s the original version of the Frog Splash! He connects, and covers to get the three count, and we have a NEW Intercontinental Champion!

Winner: Eddie Guerrero
Time: 13:23
Rating: ***3/4

Verdict: I was a bit concerned that I would look back at Eddie’s matches with rose-tinted specs, but I think it would be difficult to say that about this match. It was a very entertaining contest, nothing out of place and everything done well. Eddie’s offense was superb and varied throughout, and RVD did a great job of selling it, as well as hitting his usual moves during the match. Definitely a good start to their programme of matches.

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JR and King hype the Scorpion King movie, back in the days when the WWF paid attention to The Rock’s movies, instead of forgetting he exists.

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Match #7
#1 Contender’s Match
The Undertaker vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Guest Referee: Ric Flair

How It Came To This

We can look to WrestleMania X8 for the match between The Undertaker and Ric Flair for part of this match, The Undertaker defeated Flair after a one-sided feud where he also beat down Flair’s friend ARN ANDERSON and Flair’s son David. Considering all this, it was surprising that Flair chose The Undertaker as his number one draft pick when Flair became RAW’s owner. No-one was more surprised than The Undertaker, but he was appeased by getting a chance to become the #1 Contender to the Undisputed Title. However, Stone Cold Steve Austin also set his sights on becoming Undisputed champion, and all of a sudden there were too many contenders. The Undertaker duly defeated Rob Van Dam, and Austin duly defeated Scott Hall, meaning we had two #1 contenders. But then Hollywood Hogan was named the #1 Contender, so neither Undertaker or Austin got the title shot. Instead, this match determines who faces the Undisputed Champion at Judgment Day. Nothing like a simple situation is there? To make things more fun, Austin gave Flair a Stunner on two occasions, so Flair doesn’t like either of them. He made himself the guest referee for the match to ensure a winner.

The Match

Flair is out first with some red shoes that stick out with his referee uniform. It’s unlicensed DVD songs galore, Flair’s Space Odyssey theme is dubbed, as is Taker’s Rollin’. Austin’s theme isn’t dubbed though, so I can officially pronounce his entrance pop as “very big”. Loud “What?” chants as we wait for them to lock-up. Still waiting. We’re a minute in now, still nothing. Here we go, Taker grabs a headlock, but Austin sends him off the ropes, only to get knocked down. Taker dances boxing-like, Austin rolls out of the ring. And Austin’s back in. Another lock-up, another headlock combo, Taker sends Austin off the rope, but Austin can’t knock Taker down, and Taker does some box-dancing again. And here’s some more stalling. Austin listen’s to his watch, does some press-ups, and they lock-up again. Another headlock combo. And Taker knocks Austin down with a shoulder block. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Austin clotheslines Taker down and gives him a one finger salute, which is different I guess. Austin teases a test of strength, but gives Taker another middle finger instead. ANOTHER lock-up, another headlock, ANOTHER shoulderblock from Undertaker, but Austin hits two arm drags and applies an armbar. Knees to the left arm, and a keylock. More knees. Taker gets back up, Austin turns into a hammerlock, but Taker backs him into the corner and the hold is broken. Taker gets two right hands in to knock Austin down, but Austin ducks a third and unleashes the chops, but Taker gets his boot up in the corner and clotheslines Austin for a two count.

Taker now starts working the arm of Austin with some arm wringers, and he goes for Old School, and connects, getting a two count. Taker whips Austin off the ropes, but Austin ducks a clothesline and hits the Thesz Press, followed by some right hands, followed by an FU elbow, all of which gets a two count. Austin clotheslines Taker out of the ring, but Taker suckers him in and begins unloading right hands on the outside. Back inside, and Austin clotheslines Taker back out again… why? Austin introduces Undertaker to Carlos Cabrera and Hugo Savinovich’s table, five times in all, before rolling Taker in, only to meet Taker’s big boot as he tries to get in himself. Taker now sends Austin into the table, and connects with some more right hands. Austin blocks an attempted ring step shot, and unleashes the right hands on The Undertaker, sending him over the security barricade and into the fans. The punches continue, as Flair does very little to get them back in the ring. Back to the ringside area they go, and Taker is sent into the US announce table, and Austin chops away. Austin goes for a piledriver, but that ain’t gonna happen, so Taker back body drops him. Some mounted punches from Taker, and Taker then sends Austin into his motorbike. Oh goodie, here comes the nWo, X-Pac still wearing Kane’s mask (wouldn’t that piss The Undertaker off?).

Loud “X-Pac sucks” chant from the fans, as Austin is sent thigh-first into the ring steps. More shots of the nWo, and X-Pac really looks stupid in that mask. Taker sets Austin up on the apron, and lands his leg drop across the back of the neck. Finally they’re back in the ring, and Taker starts working on the leg of Austin with some elbow drops to the knee. Leglock applied, because this match needed a meaningless submission hold. Austin gets to the ropes after 54 seconds in the hold, but Taker doesn’t release the hold straight away. Austin fights back with some rights, but Taker gets a crappy clothesline in for a two count. Here comes the neck vice, and here come the boos. Amen to that. Over a minute of that before Austin rakes Taker’s eyes. Austin reverses a Taker whip and gets a sleeper, but Taker reverses into a back suplex for a two count. Back to the neck vice. Sigh. Another thirty three seconds of it in fact, before Austin fires some right hands, Austin goes for the Stunner, but Taker reverses and hits a clothesline for a two count. Austin with some more right hands, but Taker hits his diving lariat for a two count. Blatant choke from Taker, and he starts untying the top turnbuckle pad, but there’s some IRONY as Austin reverses a whip, sending Taker back-first into the exposed turnbuckle. Both men go for a clothesline, and they’re both down on the mat. That’s what the match needed, more downtime. They get up, and Austin takes control with more right hands, before stomping a mudhole and walking it dry.

Austin whips Taker to the corner but meets a back elbow, and Austin sends Undertaker into Ric Flair, and Flair goes down. STUNNER from Austin. But wait, SIXTEEN TIME WORLD CHAMPION RIC FLAIR IS KO’D BY A SHOULDERBLOCK. This match just got even worse. Low blow from Undertaker, and he signals for a Chokeslam. And there it is! Cover made, but Austin kicks out at 2. Taker heads outside to grab a steel chair, he goes to swing it, but Flair grabs the chair, allowing Austin to hit a low blow of his own. But Taker gets a big boot, and there’s another two count. Austin reverses a whip and hits a spinebuster, and he gets a two count. Austin poses waiting for the Stunner, but Taker reverses and sends Austin into Flair, who is knocked out AGAIN. Taker with the chair, and he cracks it off the skull of Austin. Taker covers, Flair crawls over, but Austin kicks out at 2 again. Taker goes for the Dragon Sleeper, but Austin reverses into a clothesline, and gets a two count. Austin tries a Dragon Sleeper of his own, but Taker elbows out of it and goes for the chair, but Austin ducks the chair shot and stomps another mudhole, walking it dry once more. Austin now with the chair, but Taker big boots it back into his face! Taker covers… and gets the three count?! Austin has his foot on the ropes for the whole count, but Flair was checking the shoulders. And once again, I have to say thank God that’s over. Austin gives Taker some right hands and a Stunner to keep the fans happy, but that won’t change the result.

Winner: The Undertaker
Time: 27:01
Rating: 1/4*

Verdict: There were so many things wrong with this match, it scares me to list all of them. I’ll go for the big ones first, mainly that the match itself was boring, slow as hell and nowhere near as entertaining as a match of this calibre should be. It completely confuses me that two men who have had so many great matches in their career can put on a match this bad. I partially put the blame down to Taker’s heel style which was far more strike-friendly, but even so there was no excuse for this. Secondly, Flair’s refereeing didn’t help matters, I understand his involvement from a storyline perspective, but TWO ref bumps on one of the greatest wrestlers of all time? And lastly, what did the nWo have to do with this? Why were they even out there? Ugh, what a mess. 27 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

————————–

Ric Flair heads backstage, and is met by The Coach, who asks him about the foot on the rope and shows him a video of the incident. Unfortunately the video shows Flair looking straight at Austin’s leg before he counts, but we’re not supposed to notice that. Flair’s response: “Oh, sh*t!”

————————–

Match #8
WWF Tag Team Championship Match
Billy & Chuck (with Rico) (c) vs. Maven & Al Snow

How It Came To This

Al Snow was Maven’s head trainer during Tough Enough, explaining why they would be teaming together at least. The war between these two teams when Rico insulted Maven’s eyebrows, and Al Snow insulted Rico’s sideburns. Al beat Chuck in a singles contest, then Maven pinned Chuck in a six-man tag match. Apparently that’s all you need for a tag team title shot, and thus they were granted one.

The Match

Billy and Chuck, with Rico, enter first to “You Look So Good To Me”, whilst Maven and Al enter to the Tough Enough theme. Billy and Chuck attack at the bell, Billy singling out Al, and Chuck on Maven. Al and Maven reverse whips and nail clotheslines, before sending Billy and Chuck out of the ring. Al tries on a bandana and pretends to be camp. Chuck drags Maven out of the ring, and Billy sends Maven into the barricade. Back inside, Billy stomps at the back of Maven, before Maven is able to reverse an Irish whip, sending Billy into Al on the apron, and then nailing a DDT. Billy stops Maven making the tag and tags in Chuck, who hits some shoulder thrusts on Maven in the corner. Chuck catches a Maven kick, but Maven hits an enziguri, and makes the “hot” tag to Al Snow. Snow unleashes the clotheslines and back body drops Chuck, before hitting ten punches on Billy in the corner, but Rico distracts the referee and allows Chuck to hit a clothesline. Swinging neckbreaker from Billy gets a two count on Snow, Chuck tagged in, and he snapmares Al down, Snow fights back, but Chuck delivers a belly to belly suplex for a two count.

Tag to Billy, who sends Snow into the corner, but misses a splash. Chuck charges in, but Snow drop toe-holds him into Billy’s crotch. Tag to Maven who slugs Billy and Chuck down repeatedly, then dropkicks Chuck out of the ring. Maven sends Billy off the ropes, but sets himself too early and Billy hits a Fameasser! Al drags Maven out of the ring before a pinfall though, and slaps Billy in the face. Snow leapfrogs Billy back into the ring, but is met by a Jungle Kick to the jaw from Chuck. Billy distracts the referee, allowing Rico to attempt a Spinning Heel Kick on Maven, but Maven ducks and Rico connects with Chuck instead. IRONY~! Maven sends Billy into Snow, who connects with a spinebuster, before Maven heads up top and hits a crossbody, but only gets a two count. Maven is hyped/constipated, Rico is back in, Snow chases him out again, but Chuck connects with a Jungle Kick to Maven! Billy covers, and there’s the three count, victory to the Bandana Boys.

Winners: Billy and Chuck
Time: 6:00
Rating: *

Verdict: Just a nothing match really, a title match for the sake of another title match being on the card, and you know it means very little when it only gets six minutes. What they did manage to fit in was pretty by the numbers stuff, and with a lack of threatening challengers, the result was always pretty much a lock. The crowd didn’t care at all, but that was to be expected during a filler match between main event matches.

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Match #9
WWF Undisputed Title Match
Triple H (c) vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan

How It Came To This

Some would say this match was rushed through, with Hogan’s return to the WWF still hot with the fans and an Undisputed Title match was a way to tap in to that. There were a lot of contenders for a title shot, see The Undertaker vs. Steve Austin for more details on that, but also with The Rock and Chris Jericho viable contenders from SmackDown!, it was Hogan who was chosen by Vince McMahon, saying that he had “earned” it.  Hogan and HHH built the match up as best they could, having intense staredowns backstage and cutting their generic promos, but it exploded when, during a tag team match where they were partners, Hogan accidentally hit HHH in the head with a chair, so HHH responded by hitting Hogan with a chair shortly afterwards.

The Match

Hogan comes out to Voodoo Chile, making me wonder why that song is licenced when the rest aren’t. HHH enters as the entrances last five minutes, and I’m sure you’ll forgive me skipping them. Mid-ring staredown, finally they lock-up, and HHH wins a power battle. Crowd seem to be behind Hogan, which is unsurprising. Another lock-up, and again HHH wins a test of strength to more boos. Another lock-up, and this time Hogan wins the power battle and does some posing. Another test of strength, and this is… this is just awful. HHH gets Hogan down to one knee, but Hogan gets back up. HHH hits a back elbow, our first strike after four minutes of match time, and applies an overhand wrist lock. Hogan powers out and applies a headlock. THIS IS TERRIBLE. HHH sends Hogan off the ropes, and Hogan knocks him down with a shoulder block, then poses. Lawler compares it to a chess match, which seems like a perfectly acceptable alternative to watch right now. HHH unleashes some right hands, punching Hogan down into the corner, and then choking him. Hogan reverses a whip, and hits a back body drop on HHH, then clotheslines him down twice. Hogan goes for some chops in the corner, then a choke of his own.

Hogan CLIMBS THE ROPES… to deliver some more punches, ten of them in fact, then sends HHH off the ropes, but HHH connects with an elbow to the head. HHH charges, but Hogan sends him over the top rope to the ringside floor. Hogan follows him out and sends him into the ring post, then into the security wall. Hogan then hits a suplex(!) on the outside, but HHH sends Hogan into the ring steps. Back in the ring we go, and HHH chops away at Hogan in the corner, then sends him powerfully into the opposite turnbuckle. HHH goes for the Pedigree, but Hogan counters and tosses HHH into the turnbuckle. Roll-up gets two, and we get some more right hands from Hogan. Hogan whips HHH into the corner and follows up with a clothesline, and once again. DIAMOND CUTTER(?!) from Hogan gets a two count. That was surprising. Hogan goes for a body slam, but HHH reverses and goes for Hogan’s leg with a chop block. Another chop block, and the crowd are completely anti-HHH now. HHH heads outside slams Hogan’s leg on the apron, then wraps it around the ring post twice. Another chop block inside the ring, before HHH drops an elbow right to the knee. Another elbow to the knee, and a leg lock applied.

HHH goes for a figure four, Hogan kicks him away, but HHH chop blocks him again. Multiple elbow drops to the knee, and HHH applies a leg grapevine. Hogan powers out, but HHH comes back and unleashes right hands, and chokes a grounded Hogan. HHH finally gets hits figure four leglock, using the ropes to multiply his heel status. After a minute and a half, Hogan reverses the hold and the pain, so HHH breaks the hold. HHH applies a sleeper, trying to send Hogan to a place where I’m very near right now as well. Hogan’s arm drops twice, but SHOCKINGLY comes back to life at the third, and nails HHH with a back suplex. Both men down, but when they’re up Hogan blocks a punch and hits some right hands of his own, double axe handle knocks HHH down. Big boot! LEG DROP! Hogan covers, but Chris Jericho is out with a chair, and drags referee Earl Hebner out of the ring, before smashing the chair over Hogan’s head. See, he hadn’t left the arena after all! GENIUS. HHH isn’t happy to see Jericho, and hits him with a facebuster before clotheslining him out of the ring.

HHH heads back to Hogan, but Hogan is HULKING UP! Right hand! Right hand! Right hand! Big Boot! Leg drop misses! HHH goes for the Pedigree, and he hits it! HHH with the cover…. 1….2… Oh lord, here’s The Undertaker, and he punches out Hebner. Chair shot to HHH from The Undertaker! Taker drags Hogan over, but Hogan refuses to cover and Hulks up again! Hogan clotheslines Taker out of the ring, then DROPS THE LEG on HHH! Hogan covers… 1…2…3! We have a new Undisputed champion. Seems a bit hypocritical not to cover after the chair shot, then to hit a leg drop when HHH hasn’t even got up, but what do I know. Taker smirks on his way back up the ramp, whilst Hogan poses with his first WWF title for nine years. More posing from Hogan, and HHH is back up looking moody. He’s bladed after the match is over, which is just a waste of blood. HHH shakes… I think he’s trying to emote. HHH extends his hand, and Hogan accepts it. Awww. HHH leaves, and Hogan poses to close out the show.

Winners: Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Time: 22:04
Rating: *

Verdict: The first seventeen minutes of this match made The Undertaker vs. Austin look exciting. It was really slow, incredibly repetitive, and just plain boring. It certainly picked up towards the end, the overbooked finishes might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s Sports Entertainment 101, particularly when your main eventer is as old as Hogan. Hogan was seemingly given the belt for novelty value, a risk which didn’t pay off, but nobody could deny his popularity at this moment in time.

————————–

OVERALL SHOW VERDICT

We often see PPV events that are saved by one or two matches, some would argue that WrestleMania 25 was one of those for example. This is a perfect display of that, as the undercard matches like Tajiri vs. Kidman, Eddie vs. RVD and Angle vs. Edge really saved this show from being terrible. The sharp downturn in entertainment started with Austin vs. Undertaker, and didn’t ever get back on track. The two big matches of the night spectacularly failed to deliver, both were boring, dull, unimaginative matches that would have killed the crowd completely had the participants not been so well known.

Some may make excuses that the brand extension meant that storylines became more difficult to manage and create. Matches like Bradshaw vs. Hall, Trish vs. Jazz and Austin vs. Taker were very much tried and tested almost, whilst some experiments like giving Maven and Al Snow a tag title shot didn’t work at all. The show can be remembered for Hogan’s last WWF Title victory, but considering his age and the rushed nature of the decision it was not all that fond a memory.

Grade: C-

Join me soon for my look back at Judgment Day 2002, where I get treated to Hogan taking on The Undertaker, and it’s possible I may bring out some negative stars.

If you have anything to say regarding the review or the show, feel free to contact me at chris2k@wrestling101.com.

Until next time, peace out.

Buy It:

UK: DVD

USA: DVD

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