Seeing as its Halloween today I thought I’d go back and look at one of my favourite episodes of Smackdown from back in 2002. Indeed, I’ve watched this one episode of Smackdown many times over the years and tend to come back to it when this time of the year comes around.
It not only features some good wrestling but it also has a fun Halloween theme to it that they make good use of throughout the show in different ways.
The event is emanating from Grand Rapids, Michigan, with lots of the crowd getting into the Halloween spirit and coming in fancy dress.
Calling the action are Michael Cole and Tazz
We see that the Smackdown roster is enjoying a Halloween party in the catering area, with most of them being in fancy dress. Faarooq and Eddie Guerrero try to out stereotype one another by coming as a pimp and Zorro respectively. Smackdown General Manager Stephanie McMahon shows up dressed as a slutty witch (Make your own jokes, I’m busy recapping here) and announces that tonight’s main event will be Rey Mysterio Vs WWE Champion Brock Lesnar. Rey seems happy with this.
Edge Vs WWE Tag Team Champion Chris Benoit
Smackdown head writer Paul Heyman was indulging in one of his favourite booking tropes during this period by booking Benoit and Kurt Angle as tag team champions who hated one another. Seriously, go back and watch some ECW, he LOVED that story line for some reason. Edge was actually my favourite wrestler at this point in time and he was really coming into his own thanks to getting to work with the likes of Guerrero, Benoit and Angle on a regular basis. Obviously it would take his heel turn in 2004 to really break out, but his 2002 run was pretty fun.
The opening of the match is pretty even, with Edge holding his own rather well with the more experienced and vicious Benoit. Edge actively targets Benoit’s mid-section, perhaps looking to weaken it for the Spear, and even drops Benoit chest first onto the barricade when the fight momentarily spills outside. Cole and Tazz talk about Scott Steiner joining WWE and about the inevitable bidding war between Raw and Smackdown for his signature (Raw would eventually “win” that battle, giving us the joys of Steiner Vs Triple H at the 2003 Royal Rumble)
The fight spills outside once again and Benoit finally manages to take control of things by dropkicking Edge’s shoulder into the ring steps. Benoit targets the shoulder back inside the ring in his usual rugged style, with Edge getting a bloody nose in the process somehow. Edge sells the beating well as the crowd ooh and ah along to Benoit’s brutal attacks. Edge is eventually able to counter a superplex into a face buster from the second rope and both men are down as we go to an advert break.
Back from the break, Edge misses a missile dropkick from the top rope and ends up taking a trio of German Suplexes in response. Benoit heads to the top rope and goes for the diving head butt, but there’s no water in the pool and both men are out for a double down. Both fight up to their feet and Edge is able to block an Irish Whip into the corner before hitting a Stun Gun and an Edge-O-Matic for two.
Benoit tries for the Crippler Crossface, but Edge slips out and gets a half Nelson face buster for another two. Edge preps for the Spear now, but Benoit is able to counter it into the Crossface and cinches it in. Edge desperately tries to get out but Benoit keeps the hold applied. A desperate Edge starts grabbing the ref whilst reaching for the ropes, which allows Kurt Angle to come down and drag Benoit out of the ring whilst the referee is distracted. Benoit and Angle argue on the outside, which allows Edge to take out both of them with a baseball slide. Edge tries a dive onto both men but Benoit throws Angle in the way and then sends Edge back inside, where Edge catches him with a Spear out of nowhere to pick up the three count.
This was an excellent opening match, as Benoit was great as ruthless heel and Edge was equally as good as a gutsy babyface who kept fighting despite his injury. The Angle interference left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth, but it advanced the story line between the champs whilst also giving Edge a semi-clean win, so I’ll let it slide.
Meanwhile, an important historical moment takes place as John Cena dresses up as Vanilla Ice and delivers a rap at the Halloween party, which earns him a hearty harrumph from the party goers. Little did we know that this was the birth of “The Doctor of Thuganomics” and the true beginning of Cena’s ascent to super-stardom. Interestingly enough, prior to this gimmick change Cena was potentially heading for the chopping block as he was floundering as a generic heel, but Stephanie McMahon happened to spy upon him rapping on the bus on an international tour and decided to have him do the character on TV. Its weird how these things work out sometimes isn’t it?
Tajiri, dressed up as Disco Stu from The Simpsons, decides to put the moves on a woman he sees dressed as Marilyn Munroe. However, rather than be a gorgeous young lass looking for a good time, it ends up being Mae Young because…
Everyone’s mirth is brought to swift end though as Chris Benoit, still in his gear and doused in sweat, storms into the party demanding to know where Kurt Angle is. Everyone keeps schtum and Benoit finally storms off, at which point a man dressed as Ghost Face from Scream takes off his mask to reveal it was Angle all along. The sneaky bugger!
Cut to WWE Champion Brock Lesnar walking down the hall way into his dressing room to speak with his agent Paul Heyman. Lesnar had accepted a challenge from Big Show on the previous episode, which is something Heyman isn’t happy about. Lesnar had recently won a bloody bout with The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell at No Mercy and Heyman is worried that the match took too much out of him to be facing Big Show for the Title so soon. Heyman states that he thinks Lesnar can’t get Show up for an F-5 and just generally thinks Lesnar can’t win the match. Heck of a pep talk there Paul, bravo! This would have been a more effective segment if Show hadn’t being do jobs for everyone and his brother over on Raw before jumping to Smackdown. This was all teasing Heyman’s eventual turn on Lesnar, as he decided to join up with Big Show at the Survivor Series, costing Brock the title in the process.
Big Show Vs Rikishi
This is essentially a squash match to get Big Show over, as he manhandles Rikishi with ease before polishing him off with a Choke Slam.
WINNER: BIG SHOW
This was pretty effective at making Big Show look big and scary. If Show hadn’t been treated as mid card for life over on Raw then this would have worked more in making him look like a threat to Lesnar’s title. In hindsight, they really should have gone with someone else as Brocks challenger for Survivor Series and given Big Show a couple of months to get over on Smackdown so that people could forget his time on Raw (Heck, it worked for Mark Henry eventually when he did that feud with Orton in 2011)
Big Show grabs a microphone post-match and says this is merely a small taste of what he’s going to do to Lesnar at Survivor Series and calls the Champ out to the ring. Heyman tries to convince Brock otherwise in the locker room as we go to an ad break.
Back from the break, Lesnar still hasn’t come out yet, so Big Show demands that footage be shown of him chucking Undertaker off the stage area the previous week when he made his Smackdown debut. Big Show says that he took Undertaker out in seconds, whereas it took Lesnar weeks to do it. Show calls Lesnar a child and says that reality is going to slap him in the face at Survivor Series. Lesnar has eventually heard enough and storms down to the ring. Lesnar calls Big Show a big piece of excrement (I’ve cleaned it up for those of a sensitive disposition) but Big Show decides to leave rather than fight right now. Before leaving, Big Show sows the seeds for Heyman’s eventual turn by saying he’s been “advised” not to fight Lesnar tonight, but does give an ominous threat that he’s going to do something to Lesnar that has never been done before.
Trick or Treat Match
Drawn Marie Vs Torrie Wilson
Prior to the “Women’s Evolution”, this was how WWE tended to treat its female talent, as both women are wearing slutty outfits and fighting in a literal bowl of chocolate. Dawn is dressed as a cop whilst Torrie has a Xena Warrior Princess look going on. There was actually a feud going on between Dawn and Torrie at the time, as Dawn was dating Torrie’s father as a way to get back at her over a slight of some kind. I can’t quite recall what the instigating factor was, but I’m sure it was predictably frivolous. Both women take bumps into the chocolate, dragging the poor referee into the pool in the process, which leads to Torrie stripping Dawn down to her undies before knocking her out of the pool with a chop to get the winning pin fall.
WINNER: TORRIE WILSON
This was one of those matches that you’d be embarrassed for a non-fan to catch you watching. This was a weird era for WWE in the sense that the Attitude Era had been over for more than a year but they’d still go back to this sort of stuff as a way to try and recapture the lightning in the bottle and it never worked and just came across as sleazy.
Torrie ends up chucking ring announcer Tony Chimel into the chocolate as well, because reasons.
Back at the Halloween party, Matt Hardy Version 1.0 enters the room, complete with a boom box to play his entrance music in a wonderfully arrogant touch. Matt mocks his opponent Tajiri tonight for hanging around Mae Young (Version BC) and says he’ll send him back to her after he’s suffered a very severe Twist of Fate. Tajiri goes to leave, only to be pulled back so Mae can force a smooch onto him, which he sells brilliantly.
We see that Jamie Noble and Nidia are dressed as each other in a funny bit, as she successfully bobs for apples. Whilst that goes on, Eddie and Chavo Guerrero go to Stephanie McMahon and request a shot at the tag team titles. She says she’ll think about it and tells Eddie to get ready for his match with Kurt Angle, to which Eddie replies that “Zorro is always ready” in a funny line. Vanilla Cena comes over and raps to Stephanie about Vince McMahon being in the building, so she goes off to find him.
Matt Hardy Version 1.0 Vs Tajiri
Your Matt facts for this week; “Matt always got more Halloween candy than his brother” and “Matt has seen all of the Friday the 13th Movies”
So this Matt gimmick is kind of hard to explain if you weren’t around at the time but basically he was a self-deluded arrogant heel who claimed to be the sensei of “Mattitude” and welcomed people to follow him in his cause. It was a very entertaining heel character and he got a decent amount of mileage out of it before going over to Raw in late 2003 and floundering on that show.
Case in point, Matt gets an arm drag to start and celebrates like he just won the WWE Title in a funny bit. Tajiri replies with arm drags of his own and mocks Hardy by stealing his taunt. Matt gets a school boy for two and brags about how close it was, so Tajiri replies by kicking him in the head to send him outside before following with an Asai moonsault.
Matt blocks a clothesline back inside with a Side Effect to cut Tajiri off before choking him on the ropes. Matt hammers away on Tajiri in the corner and cuts off a potential comeback by going to the eyes. Matt continues to work Tajiri over and goes to a cravat hold. Tajiri manages to fight out of that but ends up running into a back elbow to stop another potential comeback.
Matt heads up to the second rope for the AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Leg Drop, but Tajiri moves out of the way and both men are down. Tajiri hits a big side kick to get two and a kick to the back of the head for another two when Matt counters his sunset flip attempt. Tajiri tries for the Tarantula in the corner but Matt is able to block it with a modified German Suplex for a two of his own.
Tajiri gets the Tarantula on his second attempt however and then goes for a kick to the face but Matt ducks it. Tajiri goes for a back slide but Matt gets a mule kick (unseen by the referee) and manages to hit the Twist of the Fate for the win.
WINNER: MATT HARDY
Decent mid card match there which allowed both men to showcase their move sets and characters.
Meanwhile, Stephanie heads to her office to speak with her dad, but it turns out Vince isn’t here and it’s instead Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff in a Vince McMahon mask. Bischoff tells Stephanie that he’ll be the one to sign Scott Steiner and then forces a kiss upon her, which she seems to partly enjoy. This didn’t end up going anywhere, as they dropped the whole kiss thing a week later and instead just kept the competition over who would sign Steiner as the central theme.
WWE Tag Team Champion Kurt Angle Vs Eddie Guerrero
Eddie is wearing an incredibly gaudy pair of green tights for this match. Angle out wrestles Eddie to start, which causes Eddie to bail outside and fume for a bit before coming back in and delivering a sly punch. Angle shows he can fight as well as wrestle by flooring Eddie with a running forearm for two, but Eddie replies with a drop toe hold into the middle turnbuckle before hitting a gorgeous back suplex to take over.
Eddie works a chin lock on Angle in an attempt to wear his opponent down, and it actually leads to a vocal part of the crowd chanting for Angle whilst he’s in the hold. Angle fights out and hits a powerslam, which is possibly the first time I’ve ever seen him hit that move, but Eddie is soon back on top with a dropkick. Eddie chokes Angle on the ropes and then suplexes him into the ring for two. Eddie goes back to the chin lock, as the crowd chant for Angle once again.
Angle fights out of the chin lock so Eddie knees him in the gut and then goes to a head scissors instead, grabbing the ropes for extra leverage when the ref looks away. This is hardly news, but Eddie Guerrero was an excellent heel wrestler. Angle manages to transition to an ankle lock attempt whilst in the head scissors, but Eddie is able to kick him away before he cinches it in and goes back to hammering away on the Olympic Hero.
Angle finally manages to get some distance between him and Eddie by hitting a big release German Suplex for the double down. Being that this is the third match on the show to have a big double down spot lessens it somewhat, but that’s one of the pratfalls that come with having everyone use the same match structure as WWE often insists. Angle unloads with some right hands on Eddie before hitting and duo of clotheslines and a big back body drop.
Overhead belly to belly suplex gets a two for Angle before a trio of German Suplexes nets him another near fall. Angle PULLS DOWN THE STRAPS and goes for the Angle Slam, but Eddie is able to counter it into a roll up for two. Eddie gets a tremendous tornado DDT from the second rope but Angle is able to get his shoulder up at two to save the match. Eddie goes for the Laso from El Paso, but can’t really lock it in properly and Angle is able to counter it into the ankle lock, which causes Eddie to grab the ropes to break.
Eddie replies with a mule kick, ala Matt in the previous match, and hits a big vertical suplex before heading up top for the Frogsplash. Angle sees this coming however and shoves the ref into the ropes to bump him and crotch Eddie. This is Chavo’s cue to run down and help his uncle Eddie, but Angle sees this coming and takes him out. He doesn’t see Benoit come out though and this allows his partner to hit him with a Title belt. Eddie follows with the Frogsplash and picks up the win.
WINNER: EDDIE GUERRERO
Seeing the same match layout for the third time in the night was a bit jarring, but this was still decent and featured some good heel chicanery from Eddie. Benoit lays out both Eddie and Chavo with the title belt post-match as well, showing that he isn’t really on their side and just dislikes Angle.
It’s now time for Angle to storm into the Halloween party and look for Benoit. He flings poor Shannon Moore over the table and orders that no one leaves the party until he finds Benoit. He goes up to someone dressed as Ghost Face and thinks that Benoit is pulling the same trick he did earlier, but when he takes the mask off he discovers not Benoit but Brother Love instead. What a completely random, yet hilarious, cameo that was! Whilst Angle is distracted by Love’s bright red face, Benoit attacks and the two men destroy the party before both going through a table. That was one heck of a scuffle!
Rey Mysterio Vs WWE Champion Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman
Rey uses his speed at first to try and stay away from Lesnar’s power, with Lesnar actively chasing him around the ring at one point. Rey feigns hiding behind the ring steps, but actually crawls under the ring instead. Lesnar kicks the steps, thinking he’s squished Rey in the process, but Rey climbs the top rope whilst he inspects his handy work and comes off the top with a splash. Rey then tries a rana off the apron, but Lesnar catches him and the swings him into the ring post for the cut off.
Lesnar toys with Rey back in the ring and goes to a Canadian Backbreaker before turning it into a dominator. Lesnar continues to throw Rey around with reckless abandon but misses a shoulder charge in the corner and Rey hits him with a 619 to the gut. Rey sets Brock up for a standard 619, but Big Show comes out of nowhere and flings him into the crowd for the disqualification.
WINNER: REY MYSTERIO BY DISQUALIFICATION
Too short to be any higher, but this was an enjoyable big vs little story and would probably have been a heck of a match had they been given more time.
With Rey out in the crowd somewhere, Big Show choke slams Lesnar through the announce table and gestures that he wants the title.
This was a highly watchable show, with the stuff at the Halloween party being genuinely entertaining and most of the matches being fun as well. The Halloween elements were a nice change of pace and the Benoit/Angle stuff was very well done. The Big Show/Lesnar stuff was on point as well, as they did as good a job as they possibly could to make Big Show feel like a genuine contender. Despite this, Big Show ended up being little more than a transitional champion, as they used him to get the belt from Lesnar to Angle so that they could set up WrestleMania XIX.
I really do think that this Paul Heyman Smackdown run in 2002 is some of the best television the WWE has put out, mainly because it was genuinely a Three Ring Circus that had something for everybody. You had good wrestling and guys like Angle, Eddie and Benoit all getting pushes to appease the hardcore fans, you had the whole Torrie/Dawn/Al story for fans who liked soap opera, you had silly yet funny gimmicks like Noble, Matt Hardy and John Cena, and you had big lads beating the fudge out of one another like Brock, Undertaker and Big Show. To me that’s what a wrestling show should be, it should be a buffet that offers lots of different aspects and styles for viewers to enjoy.
I’d definitely recommend watching this if you have the WWE Network and want some Halloween Hijinks to enjoy. If you’ve already worked your way through every Scream and Evil Dead movie but still fancy some more Halloween themed fun in your life, you could no worse than sticking this episode of Smackdown on to give yourself a chilling thrill!