Date: April 4, 2002
Location: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, New York
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz
After Monday’s less than amazing debut for Raw, it’s time to see if Smackdown can save the opening week of the Brand Split. This show has its share of stars including The Rock, Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan and Kurt Angle. Those names alone should be enough to help carry this past Raw but this company has managed to disappoint me with less. Let’s get to it.
Vince (dang I thought this was Smackdown) wishes us good evening. On Raw, Ric Flair picked Undertaker as #1 contender but that wasn’t his right. Vince won the coin toss and the right to name the #1 contender, which he’ll do tonight. It’s really not a good sign that they’re changing matches that fast.
Here’s Kurt Angle to say he’d love to be #1 contender. That would make sense given how things have been going lately. Since the fans keep “dissing” him, he has a list of reasons why he should get the title shot.
1. He OWNS HHH.
2. He won an Olympic gold medal.
3. He is adored by children and senior citizens worldwide!
Before he can list off his other twenty six reasons, here’s Chris Jericho to interrupt. Jericho’s only rematch has been in a stupid triple threat match where Stephanie lost (true) and despite what the people here think, he is NOT a has been. Jericho suggests a match for the #1 contendership and Kurt shakes his hand but the Rock comes out with something to say. There’s only one man, AND THE ROCK MEANS ONE MAN who should face HHH for the title at Backlash. Rock doesn’t actually say who that is because he thinks there might be someone else.
One day Rock will be WWF Champion but until then, no one deserves the shot more than Hulk Hogan. I know they’re friends and all, but Rock saying Hogan should get a title shot after he beat Hogan at Wrestlemania and was drafted higher really doesn’t feel right. Find another way to get Hogan in the title picture though as Rock saying it isn’t working for me. After a double IT DOESN’T MATTER to Angle and Jericho and a poll from the crowd, Rock implores Vince to give Hogan the shot.
Earlier tonight, Albert confirmed that he was with Scotty for the Tag Team Title match.
Tag Team Titles: Billy and Chuck vs. Scotty 2 Hotty/Albert
Billy and Chuck are defending of course. We look at Rico talking to the announcers for some reason before Hotty takes Chuck down to start. Scotty takes things to another level by sending Chuck head first into Billy’s…..we’ll say stomach. Chuck’s offense doesn’t last long as he eats a superkick and there’s the hot tag to the Hip Hop Hippo (just go with it) to clean house. Albert gets distracted by Rico (never look directly at the sideburns) and the chase lets Rico sneak in and kick Scotty in the face so Billy can get the pin.
Rating: D. Nothing to see here but you can almost see the post match heel turn from heel. It’s not like they have a ton of midcard acts at the moment so one less nothing tag team isn’t going to hurt anything. Albert is a former Intercontinental Champion so just let him beat up goons for a bit.
Post match, as expected, Albert beats the heck out of Scotty and says he put up with the dancing for six months.
Vince grabs Hogan the title shot.
Jericho freaks out and yells at Rock for getting Hogan the title shot. He brings up the great point that Hogan couldn’t even win at Wrestlemania and Jericho beat Rock over and over. Rock suggests Jericho try to beat him tonight and an exchange of fisticuffs is agreed upon.
Video on Christian’s losing streak and ensuing tantrums. Diamond Dallas Page helped Christian break the streak but Christian attacked him after the match. Page then beat him at Wrestlemania and the biggest fit yet ensued.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian
Page monkey flips him to start as the announcers are already talking about Backlash. Christian gets in an elbow to the face and grabs a chinlock so this is probably going to be a short match. The reverse DDT gets two and Christian throws a fit, only to sucker Page in for the Unprettier and the pin.
Rating: D+. Who would have thought a match involving Christian freaking out would have psychology? Hopefully this moves Christian on to something else as Page really doesn’t have much of a future due to his age and people not really caring about him in the WWF in the first place. The match was fine but I could go for something lasting a bit longer.
Kurt Angle thinks Hillbilly Jim should be President if Hogan gets the title shot. Edge comes up and says he feels bad about their recent problems. He’s found some pictures of their good old days but of course there are jokes on the back, such as “You Suck”, “Yes I Do Suck” and “And I’m A Dork.” It’s true, though thank goodness Edge was on the right side and Angle took the pictures when he did or this could have been embarrassing for Edge.
Here’s HHH for his bi-weekly chat, this time about the new #1 contender. The more I look at that Undisputed Title, the less I like it by comparison to the original two belts. If nothing else the other two were bigger, as World Titles should be. HHH doesn’t care if he’s fighting Hogan because he’ll fight Undertaker next. Cue Hogan in the red and yellow (first time in almost ten years in the WWF) to talk about…..Wrestlemania I?
Then he moves on to Wrestlemania III (now with 94,000 people there) and Wrestlemania XVIII, both of which he thought would never be topped. Nothing is bigger than the title though (not exactly, as it wasn’t even the biggest match at Wrestlemania) and HHH says it would be an honor to be in the ring with Hulk Hogan (Like he is now?).
In a bit of a twist, HHH says he’s looked up to Hogan his whole life. At Backlash though, he won’t hesitate to hurt Hogan every way he can. Hogan thinks it’s funny that everyone keeps declaring Hulkamania dead because it’s going to rise up again at Backlash. A lot of posing takes us out as the serious HHH awkwardly leaves. Again: I get why they have to do something with Hogan while they can but this feels really forced.
Edge vs. Kurt Angle
I miss Never Gonna Stop. Kurt stomps him down and throws a good looking German suplex to start as the announcers talk about how amazing the previous segment was. In other words, they’re probably putting it on the same level as the Rock vs. Hogan promo the previous month because in the WWF, HHH and Rock are total equals. Edge’s half nelson facebuster gets him out of trouble for a bit and Angle gets tied in the ropes. Some spears (which still look lame coming from Edge) have him in even more trouble so he chairs Edge for the DQ.
Rating: D. Anytime this show wants to deliver a match that breaks four minutes, please let me know. This is a problem that the modern Brand Split is running into as well (Raw more than Smackdown): you don’t have to put everything on every week. It’s ok to alternate back and forth for a bit and let something get a little focus.
Edge fights Angle off.
Billy Kidman wishes luck to his ex-Torrie Wilson and her boyfriend Tajiri in their match later. Tajiri comes up and rants in Japanese. Just do the heel turn/split.
Cruiserweight Title: Kidman vs. Tajiri
Tajiri is defending. Kidman dropkicks him down to start and seems to be going fast, likely due to another lack of time. A kick to the head puts Kidman on the floor and there’s an Asai moonsault for a very week ECW chant. Back in and the tornado DDT is countered into a sitout powerbomb (nice counter) but Kidman can’t hit the shooting star. The frustrated champion grabs his title and puts it in the corner, only to have Torrie take it away. Kidman uses the distraction to roll Tajiri up for the pin and the title.
Rating: D+. This felt like an Alliance era title change with the action having no meaning other than the forced angle at the end. Kidman winning the title doesn’t really change anything but it’s not like the Cruiserweight Title means anything at this point. Splitting Torrie and Tajiri (pretty obvious at this point) probably won’t lead anywhere and it’s another story to add to the pile tonight.
Tajiri berates Torrie and leaves.
Vince is mad at Maven for costing Smackdown the Hardcore Title last week. His solution: send Hardcore Holly after him. Bob leaves and here’s Stacy Keibler, (“Just call me Vince.”) to offer the boss his services, which includes bending over in front of the camera. Wouldn’t it make sense to bend over where Vince can see it?
Stacy loved Vince’s talk about intellectual sperm and he likes the way she walks. They sit down and we go to a break, coming back with Vince fixing his clothes. Stacy is gone so here’s D-Von to yell about splitting up the Dudley Boyz. He demands an explanation so Vince tells him to get out until he’s ready to be a star. Did we just get three Vince segments in one? That’s excessive even by his standards.
Al Snow gives Maven a pep talk by saying he would have had to get mugged to get the kind of beating Hardcore Holly is going to give him.
Hardcore Holly vs. Maven
Cole hypes up Rock vs. Jericho, which will have no titles on the line. Could that be because neither is a champion? Holly punches in the corner and does his kick to the “lower abdomen”, only to miss a high cross body. Maven gets two off a missile dropkick but the Alabama Slam ends him in a hurry. I’m sure there was a point to this one somewhere.
We look at Rock challenging Jericho earlier in the night.
The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
They slug it out in the aisle to start and I’ll let you guess who gets the better of it. Rock gets catapulted into the post for the great looking bump and they head inside for the opening bell. Right hands and a spinwheel kick get two for Chris as the announcers say Rock was just showing Hogan respect earlier. A Walls attempt is broken up and Jericho gets crotched on top to set up a superplex for Rock’s first real offense.
Some of Rock’s usual stuff gets a few near falls but there goes the referee. Rock grabs the Sharpshooter but here’s Angle for the interference. Not that it matters as Rock kicks out of the Angle Slam, Edge comes out to take care of Angle, and the Rock Bottom ends Jericho as a match finally breaks seven minutes.
Rating: C. The time and talent in the ring helped carry this but it felt like a way to get to the interference which likely sets up a tag match next week. Rock is in a weird place where he’s so much better than anyone else that it’s hard to imagine someone giving him a real challenge. That HHH feud just crippled Jericho as he feels like a glorified midcarder instead of a guy who was World Champion a month again.
Overall Rating: D. Put very simply, there’s too much here. This could have been spread out over two weeks if not more, including too many turns and splits for a single show. I really don’t get why wrestling companies feel the need to do this. It’s not like there’s a big season finale coming up. Just let these already established characters (keep in mind that they weren’t anything new but rather just exclusive to one show or the other) act as they normally would instead of changing so suddenly. It doesn’t feel right and makes for an overly packed show.
On top of that, you need some more wrestling. Like I mentioned multiple times, until the main event, nothing broke three and a half minutes. There really isn’t a defense for something like that happening on a show with this much talent. Just Rock vs. Jericho alone could have eaten up twelve to fifteen minutes and you could have gut out something like Maven vs. Holly, which basically existed to say “hey, we’re here too”. Things will likely get better going forward but this was a big mess, somehow being just as bad as Raw.
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