Backlash 2003

Backlash 2003
Date: April 27, 2003
Location: Worcester Centrum, Worcester, Massachusetts
Attendance: 10,000
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz, Jonathan Coachman, Jerry Lawler

If WWE held the least important pay per view in recent memory, does it matter in the slightest? This is a glorified Raw pay per view with a handful of Smackdown matches thrown in to fill out the card. It’s a really bad time for WWE at the moment and I don’t remember looking forward to a pay per view less than this one in a long time. Let’s get to it.

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Backlash 2017

Backlash 2017
Date: May 21, 2017
Location: Allstate Arena, Chicago, Illinois
Commentators: Byron Saxton, Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield

It’s time for another Smackdown exclusive, which could mean things are hit or miss tonight. The card isn’t exactly the best with Jinder Mahal challenging Smackdown World Champion Randy Orton and AJ Styles challenging Kevin Owens for the US Title. Other than that though, this is kind of a stretch for a pay per view. Let’s get to it.

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Austin at Backlash 2000

> Watching Backlash 2000 on the network. I'm wondering, why did they bring Austin back with a big build up, do this big return…then he vanishes until Survivor Series for another return. A quick Google search did me no good – do you have an answer or any insight?

Austin's neck was FUCKED at that point. He had only had surgery done a few months prior and could barely swing a chair in April. You'll notice he's moving slowly and no one makes any physical contact with him. Survivor Series 2000 was the first time he was medically cleared, and if it's today I doubt he would have even been allowed back then.

As for why they brought him back at that show, to quote the Prime Time Players…MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. No other reason.

WM and Backlash 2000

Hey Scott,
Long time reader, and I'm really enjoying the AskScott stuff on the blog recently.
 
I have a theory about WM and Backlash 2000 – you've said numerous times that the Backlash main event and ending were so perfectly booked and that should have been the WM main event and ending, with Rock going over HHH straight instead of the 4 way mess that we got at WM. I totally agree with that. But watching the main event at Backlash, seeing Austin meander down to the ring, barely able to swing a chair and roll through the ropes – is it possible that all that WAS supposed to happen at WM, but Austin was physically unable to do it? That would lead them to essentially go into holdover mode until Austin would be physically able to go out there, and might be why they needed the ridiculous Foley return 3 weeks after his "retirement", because they wanted Austin to be a part of Rock's win and were painted into a corner in that regard, so the 4 way was the alternative that we got. And that of course would explain why heel HHH was the first heel to ever walk out of WM as champion.
Any thoughts on this?
 
Thanks  

Nope.  It's an interesting theory, but someone from the company has already gone on record, I think a WWE DVD somewhere, basically saying that they wanted to draw more money by doing a second HHH-Rock at Backlash instead of getting just the single big buyrate out of WM.  And it worked, so it's hard to fault them in hindsight.  Hell, I bought both shows and was happy to do so.   

Assorted April PPV Countdown: Backlash 2007

(2012 Scott sez:  Here’s where we wrap it up for another month, as I never did get around to watching Backlash 2006, and the show has traditionally become a skip for me since 2007 because I’m generally sick of WWE again after Wrestlemania.  Caliber Winfield offered me the chance to do a Scott sez job on his reviews of the missing shows, but I thought that it not only went against the spirit of the gimmick in the first place, but also would be cheating since I haven’t actually seen any of the shows outside whatever one had the six-man where Orton won the title from HHH and Cena put Edge through a giant spotlight like they were in a 50s Batman comic.  Update on the laptop situation!  After weeks of my full-size Toshiba laptop blue-screening on me, which I attributed to the hard drive dying, I switched back to the netbook.  You may have noticed my rants and mailbag answers getting suddenly very concise because for us people with big hands it’s somewhat torturous to touchtype on a tiny keyboard like that.  And then the NETBOOK started randomly freezing up on me (apparently Acers have that issue, which would have been nice to know before I bought it), so I was like “fuck it, I’d rather have an unreliable shitbox with a full-sized keyboard on it”.  However, just for fun, I pulled the RAM out of the Toshiba laptop on the off-chance that it was faulty and causing my issues, and replaced it with 2GB of the seemingly millions of memory sticks I have scattered in my office, and BOOM, perfectly functional again.  You will note that I have typed two paragraphs on the subject without my fingers cramping up on me.  Hallelujah.)  The SmarK Rant for WWE Backlash 2007 – Figured I might as well get this one done. – Live from Atlanta City, New Georgia – Your hosts are the usual gang of idiots. RAW World tag titles: The Hardy Boyz v. The Cow Boyz Matt starts with Lance Cade and takes him down with a headlock, as they work off that for a bit until Cade elbows him down. Matt takes them both down with hiptosses and goes back to his headlock, but gets pounded in the redneck corner for a bit. Over to Murdoch, but he gets slammed and double-teamed by the Hardyz, as Jeff dropkicks in for two. Double-team elbow gets two for two. Another double-team gets two for Jeff. Sadly, Jeff has stopped wearing hankies in his back pocket, thus robbing me of perfectly good material. The Hardyz clean house and Jeff hits the challengers with a tope con hilo, but Matt is busy updating his MySpace and doesn’t add his own highspot. (I believe it was actually shortly after this that Matt, myself, and everyone else in the Western hemisphere abandoned Myspace for Facebook and never looked back.)  Back in, the yodelling elbowdrop gets two on Murdoch. Blind charge misses, however, and Murdoch gets a clothesline from behind and Matt is YOUR face-in-peril. Cade & Murdoch whip him into the corner and Cade goes for a powerbomb to follow up, but Matt gets Jeff back in, and he promptly lands on his head while trying a baseball slide. And NOW we have someone in peril. Into the ring, Cade gets a uranage into a powerbomb for two. Over to Murdoch who adds a sarcastic Matt yell before dropping a leg on Jeff for two. He blocks Jeff’s attempt at a jawbreaker and kicks him down for two. Cade pounds him down and a short clothesline gets two. Murdoch with a suplex, but Jeff blocks into a small package for two, so Murdoch boots him down for two. Some double-teaming in the corner allows Murdoch to drop an elbow and Cade to hit the chinlock. Jeff quickly escapes with the jawbreaker, but Murdoch cuts off the tag. Backdrop suplex gets two. They take turns beating on Jeff’s back, but he kicks out of it and tries for the tag…only to have Murdoch take out Matt and thus cut it off. Murdoch goes up and hits Jeff’s foot, but no-sells it (ha! Good, I hate that spot), but Jeff gets the hot tag anyway. Bulldog for Murdoch gets two for Matt. The heels can’t get their shit together and Matt gets the Side Effect for two, but Cade drops out of the heavens with a rather impressive flying elbow to break it up. Murdoch gets two off that. Had that been the Midnight Express, it would’ve been over. Sunset flip gets two. Matt comes back with the Twist of Fate, and Jeff sneaks in for the swanton, and that’s all they need. (The Hardy Boyz d. Cade & Murdoch, Matt pin Murdoch, 15:20, ***) The Hardyz are like pizza — even when it’s mediocre, it’s generally pretty good. Unless Jeff is feeling REALLY unmotivated on a given night, the formula is pretty darn simple and they pull it off every time. Jeff’s moveset and look are really showing their age, however, unlike Matt who freshened up his whole image with the heel turn.  (And then they reversed THAT again with their current TNA run, where Jeff still looks like a contender and Matt looked like a homeless guy dating a stripper.)  Meanwhile, Shane gives Umaga a pep talk. Vince pledges to make Shane the ECW World champion tonight, but he won’t hear of it. WWE Women’s title: Melina v. Mickie James. Mickie takes her down with a fireman’s carry and they trade wristlocks, but Mickie gets a monkey-flip for two. Mickie starts working a headlock and they reverse out of that, so we start again. Melina goes to the headlock this time and Melina reverses out, then fakes a lost contact and attacks from behind. That’s the spirit! (Ah, the old lost contact lens spot, just like Gotch and Hackenschmidt used to do.)  Mickie monkey-flips her out of the corner for two and then pounds her down for two. Mickie decides to go up and Melina dumps her to the floor as a result. Gravity: Not just a good idea, it’s the law. Back in, Melina gets the hairtoss for two. A nicely melodramatic choke on the ropes gets two. And then Melina really brings the goods by putting Mickie into a full-nelson…using her legs! Damn, I don’t know why anyone didn’t think of that before now. The leg power should be better and the leverage is a huge advantage. Mickie makes the ropes, and gets a cradle for two, but Melina chkes her out in the corner. Mickie slugs back, so Melina takes her down with a senton while ramming her head into the mat. That gets two. Mickie comes back and tries a high kick, but falls into the splits, so Melina tries kicking her and also does the splits. Yet another unique spot. They slug it out and Mickie gets two, but makes the comeback. Clotheslines and a hairtoss into a neckbreaker get two. Mickie goes up and a high cross gets two. Melina backs into the corner and catches her with a high kick, and an inverted DDT finishes. (Melina d. Mickie James, inverted DDT — pin, 9:02, ***) Holy cow, this was GOOD. Legitimately, not just the sliding pity scale I usually use for these matches. Lots of hard work and unique offense here. Good on ya, ladies, keep up the good work.  (This would have been mostly Mickie.  Although I’m sure it couldn’t top Alicia Fox v. Melina, but then what could?)  Meanwhile, Mr Kennedy interrupts an Edge interview backstage and plants the seed of doubt into his mind about what might happen if he wins. Meanwhile, Steve Austin apparently has a movie out. Could have fooled me. This special look actually makes the movie less appealing than the trailer did. US title: Chris Benoit v. MVP They fight for the lockup to start and MVP gives him a clean break, but shoots in for a leg anyway. Benoit takes him down with a facelock and they trade positions until Benoit powers him down and goes for the crossface. MVP makes the ropes and bails to escape. Back in, MVP takes him down with a headlock and they trade shots until Benoit reverses to a headscissors, and from there into the bridge and backslide for two from Benoit. Benoit keeps taking him down and tries the Sharpshooter, and MVP is caught in the middle of the ring. He makes the ropes before Benoit can sit down on it, however. Benoit pounds on him in the corner, but MVP comes back with a high kick to the back of the head for two. MVP goes to a neckvice, but Benoit ducks the kick this time, so MVP counters with an overhead belly to belly for two. Back to the neck hold, and he throws elbows to work on it, but Benoit has had ENOUGH and fires off the rolling germans. He goes for the top, but MVP quite smartly grabs onto his leg to keep him from heading up there. Benoit suplexes him as punishment, but it kept him from his goal, which is interesting. Because really it’s much smarter to prevent someone from getting up there than it is to try to counter them once they’re there. MVP manages a stungun for two. Benoit comes back with a crossface, but they’re too close to the ropes again. Really, however, you’re supposed to be IN the ropes, not reaching for them. Tommy Young would have totally kicked his arm away. (Referees today, am I right?)  MVP hooks Benoit in a crucifix submission, but gets caught using the ropes, so he switches to a high kick for two. Another try is countered to the german suplexes, and this time he’s not stopping at three. We get five of them and Benoit goes for the top again, this time making sure that MVP can’t stop him, but this time MVP counters with the knees. MVP uses a half-crab to follow up, but Benoit makes the ropes. He tries a suplex, but Benoit tries to counter to the crossface, and when MVP shifts his weight to block it, Benoit counters again to a small package to finish. Ha, he got Dean Malenko with that one 10 years ago, I think. (Chris Benoit d. MVP, inside cradle — pin, 13:09, ***1/2) They got time to tell their story, and it worked well. The announcers did a great job of telling that story, too, with MVP trying to counter Benoit’s offense and finally getting beaten at his own game. Better than Wrestlemania, with a better finish to boot.   (This was such a strange feud, as we were all so sure that MVP was getting the title and he just kept losing the title matches before finally winning the damn thing.  Although they sure didn’t have much of a window of opportunity to get that belt off Benoit.  Had they changed their mind again and stuck with him as champion until June, you would not be seeing that US title today, I’m betting) Meanwhile, John Cena insinuates that Randy Orton may be a homosexual. Orton doesn’t say much to help his case. Walking punchline Ron Simmons is luckily there to finish. ECW “World” title: Bobby Lashley v. Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Umaga Shane decides to start for Team McMahon, and quickly gets pounded in the corner as a result. Spinebuster and Shane bails as the announcers note that Shane is a former European and Hardcore champion, as though those titles ever meant anything.  (I would like to once again rage about Shane never getting his comeuppance for the Euro title win in 1999.  He never even had to lose it in the ring, he just forgot about the belt and eventually gave it to Mideon as an offhand thing.)  Umaga comes in to try and Lashley hammers on him as well, but Umaga fires back and stomps him down. Lashley jumps over him in the corner, however, and clotheslines him to the floor. He gets rid of Shane as well and you can cut the tension with a knife, as everyone (except those watching the show and those in the arena) want to see Vince v. Lashley! Shane comes back in and gets suplexed and Lashley continues slugging on Umaga, but Shane trips him up and out of the ring. Umaga sends him into the post and we head back in, as Umaga uses the BACKRAKES OF DEATH. Shane goes to work on the arm with a Fujiwara armbar and a kind of half-assed cross-armbreaker. Lashley powers out of that and gets two. Back to Umaga, who goes to a bearhug and then into a samoan drop. The strategy is kind of all over the place here. Shane drops an elbow and now goes to the back, and it’s a camel clutch to use up more time. Comeback time for Lashley, who backdrops Shane and gets a torture rack into a backbreaker for two. Powerslam gets two, but Vince breaks it up and it’s the epic showdown we’ve all been waiting for! And now finally the heels get smart and triple-team Lashley, as Shane hits him with the belt while Vince distracts the ref. And then Vince tags himself in and gets two. Lashley rolls him up for two. Back to Umaga, who adds a flying splash, and Vince tags back in again and gets two again. So Umaga gets sent up again and hits another flying splash, and that one is enough. (Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Umaga d. Bobby Lashley, Vince pin Lashley, 15:44, **) Not actively bad the way that the Lashley-Umaga singles matches had been, but just overly long and lacking the anarchic goofiness that Vince’s best work has. I’m sure Shane Douglas is rolling over in his grave at Vince winning the ECW title, but to the rest of the world it’s really not that big of a deal. Meanwhile, the new champion and his son go taunt the ECW Originals, who all stand around like shmucks.  (What a stupid storyline this whole thing was.)  Smackdown World title, Last Man Standing: The Undertaker v. Batista Taker charges in with a boot and an elbow to start, but Batista catches him with an elbow and slugs away. Taker gets the flying clothesline and goes old school, but Batista catches him with a sloppy powerslam for the first count attempt. Taker is up, so Batista chases him to the floor and they brawl out there. Taker smartly throws a kick at the taped leg of Batista, and when that works quite well he stays on it. Batista gets to the apron, where Taker kicks him in the head and then guillotines him, and Batista is up at 8. Batista sends him into the stairs and they head back in, but Batista tries to go up and gets caught as a result. Taker brings him down with a superplex, and there’s something you don’t see from him every match. Both guys are up at 7, but Batista less so. They exchange punches and Batista catches him with a clothesline, but Taker is up at 8. Another clothesline, and Taker is up at 4. Slam and legdrop from Batista is a 6. Taker tosses him to break up the momentum and gets the announce table ready, but Batista manages to whip him into the railing. That gets 6. Batista wants the powerslam, but Taker reverses to a backbreaker and now Batista is forced to take the 7 count. Stairs to the head for some blood and a 5. UT pounds on the cut and finally gets back to that table, putting him through it with a legdrop. That only gets 9, however. Taker is none too happy with this, and they head back into the ring again. Corner clotheslines from Taker and Snake Eyes, but Batista has a rush and spears him instead of selling it. That gets a 7, and Batista hits him with a spinebuster right away. Taker gets up, so he gives him another one, then picks him up for a third. That’s good for a 9. Demon bomb, but Taker powers him into the corner to break and chokeslams him. Both guys are down, and it’s 9. Taker slugs away in the corner, but with a touch of irony gets powerbombed, mimicking all the times he’s done that to opponents. Taker is up at 9 after the crowd freaks out a little bit, so Batista grabs a chair and simply hits him with it. Well, that works. No count, as he follows with another try at the powerbomb, but it backfires as Taker backdrops out of it. Tombstone follows, but while it’s good for a pin in a normal match, it doesn’t keep Batista down for 10. He exits stage right to buy some time and they brawl up the ramp and slug it out on the entranceway. Batista spears him through the crash pad and the stage falls over, and both guys are counted down and out as a result. (Undertaker draw Batista, double countout, 20:24, ****) Silly finish, to be sure, but the match was super-intense and instead of the boring standing around that plagues most matches of this type, it had the guys hitting power moves and then recovering quickly for another one. How Scott books the finish: Batista powerbombs Undertaker, but Undertaker hits him in the head with a chair on the way down, and there’s your double countout. RAW World title: John Cena v. Edge v. Randy Orton v. Shawn Michaels Four-way trashtalk to start and the faces clean house, but Shawn immediately turns on Cena and throws chops in the corner. Cena comes back with a fisherman’s suplex for two, but Shawn gets a neckbreaker and Team RKO storms back in and dumps them. Edge and Orton slug it out, and Orton dropkicks him to the floor, where Cena adds a cheapshot and sends him back in. Edge gets tripped up by Shawn, but Cena comes over for the brawl and Edge baseball slides everyone. Shawn slams him on the floor and heads up for a moonsault onto the rest of the gang. Back in, it’s Edge and Shawn, who clothesline each other. Cena also comes back in, via the top, with a legdrop onto both of them in a neat spot. That gets two. Orton catches Cena with a lariat and stomps on everyone, then gets rid of Edge and Shawn and goes after Cena. Backbreaker gets two. Garvin Stomp and kneedrop get two. Cena comes back and slugs away in the corner, but charges and hits the post and he’s out again. This brings Shawn back in, and he throws chops at Orton and gets the flying forearm, only to walk into a leg lariat from Edge that gets two. Orton rolls Shawn up for two. Edge and Orton decide to stop and collaborate, whipping Shawn into the corner and stomping away on him. Cena crawls up and they launch him into the table to get rid of him again for a while. Rated RKO take turns on Shawn in the corner and get a double backdrop, and it’s a double boston crab. Not sure how that would work if Shawn decided to tap. Cena breaks it up and starts throwing shoulderblocks, and that gets rid of Shawn. Backdrop suplex for Edge and the five knuckle shuffle follows, but now Shawn and Orton team up and pull Cena out of the ring and into the post. Shawn sends Orton into the post too, just because you can’t trust him. He tries to piledrive Orton through the table, but Edge saves with a chair, and then turns on his own partner as well. Treachery RULES. Back in, Edge charges with the chair, but gets caught in the STFU as a result. It’d be really great if Cena could actually learn that move someday. (2012 Scott sez:  Nope, he still sucks at it.)  Edge makes the ropes, so Cena catches the returning Orton instead. Shawn saves and cradles Cena for two, then gets the forearm and makes the comeback with atomic drops on everyone. Edge and Orton get the heave-ho, and Shawn goes up, but has to stop and take out Edge. Flying elbow for Edge instead, and another one for Orton seems likely to follow, but Cena follows him up and tries an FU off the top. Edge and Orton team up to bring them both down and it’s a four-way car wreck. Edge tries the FU on Edge, but Shawn breaks it up, so Orton hits Shawn with the RKO. Edge DDTs Cena for two. Edge tries to spear Cena, but runs into Orton, and Cena FU’s Edge, but Shawn superkicks Cena…who falls onto Orton to finish. Whew. Now THAT was a finish. (John Cena d. Edge, Randy Orton & Shawn Michaels, Cena pin Orton, 19:16, ****1/4) I would have preferred to see a four-corners format so we could have done away with the silly “One guy gets tossed to the floor and lays there for four minutes” thing, but all the different little stories told and the reversal sequences made for a tremendously entertaining match that I almost wanted to stop recapping and watch a lot of times, which is a good sign.  (Why didn’t they just do Rated RKO v. Cena & Michaels, though?  They were the wacky feuding tag team champs at this point, weren’t they?)  The Pulse: Best top-to-bottom PPV from the WWE in a LONG time, with only one bad match and a whole lot of good-to-great ones. Strongly recommended.  (Can’t really remember this one.  Sounds pretty good.  I’ll take this guy’s word for it, I guess) 

Assorted April PPV Countdown: WWE Backlash 2005

The SmarK Rant for WWE Backlash 2005 (2012 Scott sez:  This is the point where my PPV archives start to get REALLY thinned out as I lost more and more interest in WWE.  As such, there’s only this one and 2007 left in the Backlash series.)  – So last year I got to be at this PPV live, which means that the Backlash name now holds a special place in my heart. OK, not really. – Live from Manchester, NH – Your hosts are JR & King. – Opening match, Intercontinental title: Shelton Benjamin v. Chris Jericho. Shelton takes him to the mat to start and they do the bridge/backslide segment, which gets two for both guys. Shelton grabs an armbar and Jericho turns it into a wristlock, so Shelton does the Owen Hart ropeflip escape and goes back to the armbar. They take it to the mat and catfight, but Jericho starts throwing chops to take over. JR notes that Shelton grew up on the hard streets of Orangeberg, South Carolina. I’ve heard bad things about those streets. They fight for a suplex and Jericho lands on the apron, but Shelton springs over and tries to powerbomb him off the apron! Jericho reverses that to a rana to escape and then drops him on the railing to take over. Back in the ring, he lets the mean streak grow a bit by punting Shelton in the ribs and doing the Arrogant Cover for one. We hit the chinlock and Shelton comes back with a flying forearm, but Jericho retains control with a low dropkick and starts choking, like, uh, himself in a major title match. (Or the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs this year!  If us Canuck fans can’t be happy, NO ONE CAN!)  Shelton comes back with a stinger splash out of nowhere into a backdrop suplex, but another trip to the corner proves ill-fated, and Jericho bulldogs him. Shelton is again one step ahead, however, clotheslining him in the back of the head while trying the Lionsault, and they head up. Jericho pushes him down, but Shelton pops up with an incredible vertical leap and superplexes him off instead. That gets two. Shelton stays on him with a faceplant for two. Shelton takes him down with a bodyscissors, but misses the stinger splash and Jericho comes back on him. He takes him down for the lame running choke, but Shelton is ahead of him THERE, too, and catches Jericho with a samoan drop for two. Shelton tries another splash, but Jericho elbows him and catches the enzuigiri for two. I’d say Shelton went to that proverbial well once too often. Shelton gets tossed, but hangs on and springboards in with a crazy hangtime bulldog for two. This guy is gonna blow his knees out by 35. Oklahoma Roll is countered by Jericho for two, however, and he tries the Walls. Shelton counters, so Jericho catapults him into the corner, and Shelton springs back with the exploder for two. Nice sequence. Jericho’s foot was on the ropes, so he drags him into the middle and gets two again. Another try at the exploder is blocked by Jericho, and then an attempt at the dragon whip kick is caught and reversed into the Walls in a SUPER slick sequence. Shelton makes the ropes. If Jericho didn’t win off that, he’s not winning. Shelton comes back with a superkick out of nowhere while Jericho gets upset, and that gets two. Shelton whiffs on a rana and Jericho tries the Lionsault, but hits knees. However, he rolls with it and tries the Walls, and they go into a crazy pinfall reversal sequence that ends with Shelton on top for the pin to retain at 14:29. Shelton is like the one-man show these days. I’d actually like to see a motivated RVD challenging him, because it’d probably be the greatest spot show seen in years. ***3/4  (I’d like to see a motivated RVD these days PERIOD.)  – RAW World tag titles: William Regal & Tajiri v. The Heart Throbs. (Oh my, the Heart Throbs.  The metrosexual tag team where the point of the gimmick got lost in translation between callup and TV debut.)  It’s TAG TEAM TURMOIL. Regal starts with Romeo and they fight over a headlock, as Regal keeps him on the mat. Romeo flips out of a wristlock and brings Antonio in, and Regal handles him with ease, too. Tajiri comes in with a seated dropkick and fires the kicks at Antonio, then takes him down with a hammerlock submission. Standing moonsault gets two. He stops to go after Romeo, however, and gets caught in the wrong corner. Double-team elbow gets two for Antonio. Tajiri fights out of there, but gets taken into the corner, where he reverses into a sunset flip for the pin at 3:09. – William Regal & Tajiri v. Simon Dean & Maven. (Simon Dean and Maven, ladies and gentlemen.  What a tag team division 2005 produced.)  Maven & Dean now have matching purple outfits, so that’s a relief. Dean takes Tajiri down for a kneedrop that gets two, and the heels do some pushups to celebrate a double-team. Maven pounds away on Tajiri and Dean chokes him down, but Tajiri comes back with a high kick and makes the tag to Regal. I guess it was the hot tag, because Regal is certainly a house of fire. Regal suplexes Dean around and finishes him with a running knee at 2:22. – William Regal & Tajiri v. La Resistance. La Rez attacks quickly and stomps the champs down, but Tajiri kicks away at Grenier. Back to Regal for a double-team kick and he puts Grenier down with forearms. Tajiri comes in for more kicks and a legdrop that gets two. Conway comes in and goes nuts on Regal with forearms, and that gets two. Lawler praises the stamina of Regal & Tajiri, although the entire match has gone maybe 8 minutes at this point. Tajiri comes in and tries the Tarantula, but Grenier necksnaps him and Conway rolls up Regal for the pin at 2:56. Bleh. – La Resistance v. The Hurricane & Rosey. Hurricane comes in with a high cross on Grenier. Blockbuster gets two. He tries to spring out of the corner, but Grenier dumps him, smashing Hurricane’s knee into the post in the process in a scary move, and gets two in the ring. Conway pounds on him in the corner and Grenier hits the chinlock. Backdrop suplex gets two. He goes up and misses an elbow, looking like a dying gazelle in the process, and it’s hot tag Rosey. Rosey misses a splash, but slams Conway for two. La Rez tries a double-team, but Hurricane breaks it up. La Rez recovers with a double-team chokeslam on Rosey for two. Rosey shoves them into each other and Hurricane goes up with a splash off Rosey’s shoulders, and we have new champions at 4:05. As if the titles weren’t already a gigantic joke, this match pretty much confirmed it, with a series of jobbers and novelty acts doing 3-minute matches. ** overall for the whole thing. (The tag division at this point was so hopeless that the creative team basically forgot that Hurricane and Rosey were the champions and they ended up holding the belts for months and not even being on TV at the time.)  – Last Man Standing: Edge v. Chris Benoit. (AKA the battle of the men with a combined spinal age of 192) Benoit dives at him and slugs away on the mat to start, and fires off a knee to the gut, then a bunch more to the head. Can some please explain to JR that “dehabilitating” is not pronounced that way nor really even a word? Edge comes back with a shoulder in the corner and stomps away, as the crowd lets him know that they want Matt. So does Jeff Jarrett, apparently.  (Be careful what you wish for, TNA.)  Edge chokes him down and sets up for a quick spear, but Benoit takes him down with a drop toehold and gets a back elbow. Benoit dives in with the crossface, but really that’s useless. Benoit throws some vicious knees on the mat and tries a suplex, but Edge fights out and boots him down. He starts going for the plunder, but Benoit baseball slides a garbage can out of his hands and they brawl on the floor. Into the crowd we go, and back into the ring, which gives JR a chance to use his other favorite dumb word: “Surcease”. And then MORE of the dehabilitation , as Benoit gets the Sharpshooter and Edge taps for no reason. Benoit releases and starts throwing the german suplexes, and after five of them Edge rolls out. The ref counts him down, but he’s up at 8. Benoit waits until he gets up, and then elbows him off the apron again. Back up at 8 and Benoit tries to knock him down with the suicide dive, but Edge counters with the lid as Benoit takes another sick bump. That puts him down for 7, but he’s up again. Edge puts him down again with the lid for 6. Back into the ring, as Edge puts him on the top rope and they slug it out up there. Edge wins that battle and superplexes Benoit on a garbage can. Everyone’s out, but Edge is up at 7 and Benoit is up at 8. Edge hits him with a running knee and some lid shots, but Benoit is up again quickly. So it’s ladder time now, as Edge means business. Benoit fights back and gets slammed as a result, allowing Edge to climb the ladder. Benoit follows him up there and brings him down with a german suplex from the ladder. And they wonder why guys have serious neck injuries. Benoit fires off another german suplex and goes up the ladder, but Edge moves and avoids the diving headbutt. Edge tries to hit him with the Magic Briefcase, but Benoit counters into the crossface and JR is again with the dehabilitating. Edge taps again for no purpose and both guys get counted down, but both up quickly. Benoit throws more suplexes, but gets DDTd on the briefcase. Benoit is up at 9, however. Edge spears him down again, and it’s another 9. Another spear, another 9. Edge goes into the briefcase now, finds a brick, and hits Benoit with it to finish at 18:47. Good brawl, but all the counting spots dragged it down. The storyline at the end with Edge wearing him down and then desperately finishing with the brick worked well. ***1/2 – Lawler interviews a bunch of divas in a pointless segment, which is then interrupted by Chris Masters in an even more pointless segment, as he does a Masterlock Challenge and abuses a woman. Yeah. – Kane v. Viscera. They slug it out in the corner and Kane boots him to the floor to start, and follows with a flying clothesline to the floor. Into the ring, Kane drops a few elbows and gets a legdrop for two. Viscera comes back with the leg lariat, however, and takes over. The elbow misses and Kane goes after Trish, but that allows Vis to get a corner splash and samoan drop for two. Bossman slam gets two. Kane comes back with a DDT after Vis puts his head down for like 5 minutes on an irish whip, and the flying clothesline follows. Chokeslam is blocked, sadly, and Vis clotheslines him to the floor. He tries a splash on the post, but Kane moves. I’m shocked. Trish tries to use a chair to turn the tide, but Lita stops her with a crutch. Back in, Kane goes up again, and gets caught with the tree slam for two. Lita comes in and Viscera stops to put the moves on her, but that allows Kane to get the big boot and chokeslam to mercifully finish this thing at 6:06. Well, at least it was short. 1/4* Viscera takes out his pent-up sexual frustration on Trish, which I guess is supposed to have turned him face. (He did actually end up as a babyface in ECW, didn’t he?)  – Shawn Michaels & Hulk Hogan v. Muhammad Hassan & Khosrow Daivari. Hulk starts with Hassan, who is of course overpowered. Next up, the deadly headlock. Hulk works the arm, but Hassan brings him into the corner and KNOCKS OFF THE DOO-RAG. Oh man, they’re in trouble now. And indeed, Hulk clotheslines both heels down and hits Hassan with the Ax Bomber. Over to Shawn now, and the Balding Egomaniacs do a double boot and Shawn works Hassan over in the corner. He misses an elbow and Daivari comes in and throws some chops on Shawn, but gets double-teamed in the face corner and pounded by Hogan outside. Back in, Hogan chokes him down and drops the elbows. Back to Shawn, who puts his head down and gets into a chop war with Daivari. Flying forearm for Daivari and atomic drop, and Shawn goes up for the flying elbow pretty early. Superkick looks to finish well ahead of schedule, but Hassan interrupts the stomping and hits him with some sort of international object. And as expected, now begins the segment where Shawn sells until he’s on death’s door. If it was Saturday Night’s Main Event, we would have taken a commercial break right about now. Hassan & Daivari work him over and Daivari chokes away in the corner and goes to a surfboard, dehabilitating him and offering no surcease. Oh, great, now he’s got ME doing it. Hassan comes in and hits the chinlock, exposing Shawn’s huge bald spot in rather ugly manner. Shawn fights back with a sleeper on Hassan, but gets taken down with a backbreaker as a result. And now it’s camel clutch time, as Hassan continues to do the tasteless throat-slitting gesture before the move. If he was doing it himself, ala Benoit & Anderson, then it’s fine as a generic gesture of his intensity, but doing it to Shawn is supposed to evoke specific images, and that’s not cool. (Can you believe that Hassan was originally intended as a babyface character?)  Shawn powers out of the deadly rear chinlock with an electric chair, and it’s hot tag Hogan. Much punching results. Big boot for Daivari, but Hogan can’t do the legdrop, so they do a spot where Hassan hits HIM with the object to break it up. Daivari gets two, but it’s Hulk Up time of course. Hassan breaks up the legdrop again, so Shawn finishes Daivari with the superkick, as Hogan gets the pin at 15:14. This was very, very SNME formula, but the heels were no threat so it lacked any of the punch you’d think it would have had. It should have had Shawn bleeding all over the ring and selling some dramatic injury, but instead the heat segment was like 5 minutes long and they finished them off more like they were a minor impediment to their posing routine rather than any kind of serious threat. **  (Of course, Shawn quickly turned on Hogan, the next night if I’m thinking correctly, to set up their Summerslam main event.  The intention was for Hassan to get the rub here and go on to beat Batista for the title at the PPV in Washington, I kid you not. )  – And now Christian joins us, upset that he’s left off the PPV. It might be the last time he’s on a RAW PPV, so he’s going to express himself via a rap aimed at all his fellow main-eventers. “On RAW you’ve got Batista with muscles to spare, but he’s got charisma like Tomko’s got hair. You’ve got HHH and Ric Flair, their legend still grows. 26 titles between them, and the world’s biggest nose. Have you heard the one about JBL, you know the rich guy on Smackdown? Well I hear his taxes are still soaring, but he’s no wrestling god, just a god of boring. Seems to me I’m forgetting somebody. Who am I forgetting? Oh yeah, he’s the guy who inspired this little rap, the WWE champion, John Cena. Well I got a little something for him. Hey Cena, you think I’m jealous of your fortune and fame. Well you talk like Snoop Dogg, but you look like Corey Haim. So after the draft, whether it’s RAW or Smackdown, JR or Michael Cole, I will be champion, because that’s how I roll!” Well, it’s not a match, but I feel enriched. 10 points for effort on the Corey Haim reference, minus several million for current pop culture relevance.  (RIP Corey Haim, of course.)  – RAW World title: Batista v. HHH. Flair trips up Batista to start, and HHH attacks. He quickly goes for the Pedigree, but Batista counters out. Into the lockup and Batista slugs away in the corner, and they fight over their finishes with no one able to get it. Batista indicates that HHH was “that close” to losing, although he might be referring to his penis size judging by the years of steroids and self-centered booking. HHH slugs away in the corner and gets backdropped as a result, and Batista slugs away again. HHH tries another Pedigree, but this time Batista backdrops him over the top and to the floor. Batista follows him out and charges, but walks into a spinebuster into the railing. Guess it’s time for the monster World champion to start selling for HHH again. HHH suplexes him on the floor and starts working on the back, in the ring. He charges and hits elbow and Batista tries his powerbomb again, but HHH counters him into the corner and works the back. Batista gets whipped into the corner and Flair gets some cheapshots in from the outside. Back to the corner, HHH fires away, but Batista fires back. HHH gets the main event spinebuster for two, however. They head back to the corner and Batista catches him with a lariat, then follows with a sideslam. He dumps HHH with a clothesline and they brawl on the floor. Back in, Batista works him over in the corner and gets the powerslam and does some rope-shaking. Batista got over by doing DIFFERENT power stuff, not the same crap that people were doing 15 years ago. That’s one reason why this title reign is dying. (WWE was actually doing really well with Batista as champion.  Of course, with the swapping of Batista and Cena later in the year, they were doing even better.)  Flair tries to interfere, but that allows HHH to get the belt and use it to counter the powerbomb. That gets two. Pedigree is countered again by Batista, and the ref is bumped. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE follows, but there’s no ref. I love how HHH makes sure to get his move and the visual pinfall, just so we know that if there HAD been a ref, it’d be over. HHH tries to wake up the ref, to no avail, so another one comes out to see Batista counter the Pedigree into a spinebuster for two. HHH comes back with a facecrusher for two. Another try at the Pedigree, but Batista powers him into the corner for a clothesline. He gets two more, but HHH kicks the ref in the nuts and we’re minus another one. Flair interferes and gets creamed, and Batista catapults HHH into the corner. He tries the demon bomb, but didn’t give the thumbs down, so HHH counters with a low blow. Did Kevin Sullivan book this? HHH pounds away in the corner, but Batista powerbombs him for the pin at 16:22. I think this was actually worse than Wrestlemania, with a dull main portion and a lot of silly overbooking and ref bumps during the finishing sequence. HHH is just not the guy to selflessly put over a new star and make him into something special. (Well that’s exactly what happened, so I guess 2005 Scott can shut the hell up now.)  *1/4 The Inside Pulse: Really good first hour, but the rest of the show just kind of dragged to a finish. I’d even call the Hogan match a disappointment, as the heels didn’t get enough offense in to really build drama. Two matches over *** is good enough for a thumbs in the middle, and nothing else was bad enough to bring it below that, but I can’t recommend going out of your way to see this one.  (Agreed.  Totally forgettable show.) 

Assorted April PPV Countdown: Backlash 2004

The SmarK Rant for WWE Backlash 2004 / RAW April 19 2004 – So finally I’m back home and organized enough to do a rant of the show, after a whirlwind weekend of WWE-stuff that I’ll get into in the RAW rant, because that’s where most of it is pertinent. FYI, my seats ended up being section 119, row 4 (which is literally one row off the floor and I was sitting right beside the hard camera and right behind the soundboard, dead center to the ring) and just to give you an idea of how great these seats were, Shane McMahon and Chuck Palumbo were sitting beside us. Shane was great, marking out like nuts all night and generally going with the flow. We could watch the PPV feed on the monitors at the same time as the live action in the ring, which was kind of trippy. Plus we got to see the official script for the show, complete with neatly formatted title page and everything. They really do exist. And the best thing was that the tickets were actually there ON TIME this time around! We even got to bypass the insane lineups outside by going to the Will Call window.  (The thing that always drives me nuts about comp tickets is waiting for the promoter to actually send them to the Will Call window, which usually means you’re getting into the show literally 5 minutes before it starts.   My life is TOUGH.)  Rexall Place was legitimately sold out with about 15,000 or so — I couldn’t see any blocked off sections (outside of the area around the hard camera, directly behind me) and there were only a few empty seats here and there. T-shirts were very reasonable, and I picked up a Backlash shirt with the three-way on the front and Foley-Orton on the back for $30. You could also get all the Stone Cold and Goldberg shirts for $10 each.  (Kind of wish I had gotten the Austin shirt, because at least I’d still be able to wear it today.  A shirt with Benoit on the front is a little harder to pull off…)  It really amazes me, too, what a great job of making the arena look so much bigger than it is that they do. – Live from EDMONTON, ALBERTA!  (My first ever live PPV experience, believe it or not.)  – Your hosts are JR & King. – The crowd was going crazy for Benoit from the moment the show started, even during Heat. – Opening match: Shelton Benjamin v. Ric Flair. Fun fact: This is the first time I’ve seen Flair wrestle, live, despite going to dozens of house shows from 86-present. (Dunno how I missed him on the 92 run, but I did.  There was a period around that time when the WWF was forced to run smaller venues up here because they couldn’t sell enough in the big arenas anymore and I know I skipped those shows, so maybe that was one.)  Flair was just crazy over as a face, which made me think they should have used Batista in this spot. (Back when Batista was NOT one of the biggest stars in the world, of course.)  Benjamin takes him down with a fireman’s carry and gives Ric some attitude, which draws heat from the fans. Slugfest leads to a Flair Flop, but Flair comes back with a chop in the corner, and he dodges a charge. Flair overpowers him and they criss-cross into a Shelton dropkick, and he dumps Flair with a clothesline. Slugfest on the floor, but Flair gets backdropped. Back in, Flair goes to the eyes and chops him down, but goes up and gets slammed. Benjamin gives him a couple of clotheslines, but whiffs on a dropkick and Flair tries a figure-four. Benjamin reverses for two. He clotheslines Flair, going back on offense, but Flair kicks him in the knee to take over again. He pounds away on it and mixes in some chops in the corner, and it’s figure-four time. Shelton tries to fight it off, but succumbs. Flair gets two off it, but Shelton reverses until they get to the ropes. I was disappointed at not seeing Flair using the ropes live. Flair chops him down again for two. He grabs a chair, but the ref confiscates it, so they slug it out, with Shelton eventually winning, and an enzuigiri triggers another Flair Flop. It’s like he’s epileptic tonight or something. Dragon Whip kick puts Flair down again, but he keeps coming, and they slug it out again. Benjamin wins that battle and whips him out for a Flair Flip, then suplexes him back in, only to walk into a monster chop. Flair goes up again, for reasons that escape me, then comes down again, only to get hit with a Blinger Splash and the flying clothesline for the pin at 9:32. This was better live, as Flair just looked old and slow on tape. ** My original rating upon seeing it live was about ½* higher.  (Don’t even remember it now.)  – The Coach v. Tajiri. Coach had really good heat with the crowd before the show. They exchange waistlocks, but Coach escapes, so Tajiri kicks him in the leg. He bails and Tajiri follows, but misses a high kick and hits the post. Back in, Coach gets two. He starts working on the leg and gets a kneecrusher, then takes him down into a kneebar. Coach isn’t bad, actually. Tajiri reverses, so Coach has to make the ropes. Coach stays on the leg, but Tajiri gets a sunset flip for two. Coach clips him again and goes back to the kneebar, even using the ropes. Tajiri kicks out of that in pretty vicious fashion, and Coach backs off to the corner. He tries going up, but it’s like Tito Santana in 1979 or something, as he takes so long that Tajiri crotches him and hangs him in the Tree of Woe. Then he dropkicks the back of his head in a nasty spot, for two. Coach, dying for our pleasure? What world is this? Tajiri follows with a handspring elbow and dropkick to come back, and the high kick triggers a series of them. Coach blocks a monkey flip in the corner for two, but Tajiri gets the Tarantula. But alas, Garrison Cade runs in and hits Tajiri, giving Coach the pin at 6:26. You’d expect a comedy match for this, but it wasn’t, as Coach actually tried to work a normal wrestling match, and succeeded for the most part. Not bad. *1/4  (I don’t know what the deal with Coachman trying to be a wrestler for a while was about.  His best ever usage came later in the year when he was bullying Eugene and Rock came out and destroyed him.)  – Christian & Trish v. Chris Jericho. For those wondering, Christian cut a promo on the crowd before the show, where he basically mocked Canadian fans for caring about where people were announced from, and then made sure to note that the Leafs rule and the Oilers suck. By that point, we were sure to boo them. He had me at “Leafs rule”, actually. Jericho is temporarily from Winnipeg again tonight.  (So yeah, this was during HOMETOWN-GATE 2004, as WWE once again decided that the source of their problems was Canada treating the wrong people as babyfaces and heels.  They started billing Jericho as being from New York instead of Winnipeg and Edge from Miami instead of Toronto, thus causing nerds on the internet to lose their shit.  You’ll of course note that WWE quickly backed down and/or lost interest in fucking around with Canada any further, and the proper Canadian hometowns were restored again.)  Jericho slugs Christian down and goes after Trish, but Christian runs interference, so Jericho elbows him down and gets a backdrop. At this point, a CRAZY loud “slut” chant starts (with Shane participating), and Jericho suplexes Christian for two. (Shane was as much fun as the show itself in some ways.)  Jericho has words for Trish, and Christian clobbers him from behind as the “slut” chant starts again. Christian charges and gets tossed by Jericho, setting up the springboard dropkick. Back in, Jericho goes up with a flying elbow for two. He chops away, and “accidentally” collides with Trish while running the ropes, but Christian suplexes him onto the top rope to take over, and then purposely collides with Jericho to send him into the railing. Back in, it’s Trish time, as she uses the SLAPS OF DOOM and a high kick to put Jericho down. Back to Christian, as he hits the chinlock. Jericho fights out and goes for the Walls, but Christian kicks him off, only to suffer a headbutt to his favorite muscle for his troubles. Jericho rolls him up for two. He chops away again and gets a clothesline, into the Flashback for two. Northern Lights suplex gets two. Christian whips him into the corner, where Trish gets a slap to allow Christian an inverted DDT out of the corner for two. Jericho comes back with another attempt at the Walls, so Jericho picks her up for the SPANKING OF DEATH, which the crowd loves. That allows Christian to hit the Unprettier, however, and Trish comes in for two. Christian gets another two off it. Trish charges in and Jericho kills her with a clothesline, but Christian clobbers him from behind again and it’s a triple-count. They slug it out and Jericho forearms him down, into the running choke. Bulldog, but the Lionsault misses, as usual. Christian takes him down with a Texas Cloverleaf, but Jericho powers into the Walls, then releases and puts it on Trish instead. Christian cradles for two. Smart man. Unprettier, but Jericho reverses to a catapult this time, sending Christian into Trish, and the enzuigiri finishes at 11:13. Lots of fun, although not as technically sound as the WM match. ***  (Oddly, Trish is the one who ended up in the best situation out of this whole deal.)  – Women’s title: Victoria v. Lita. Lita takes Victoria down with a pair of armdrags to start. Victoria goes to a headlock and works that, and they do a bridge sequence out of that. Victoria armdrags her again. Non-crazy Victoria is starting to bore me. (She bored WWE higher-ups as well and she was gone pretty soon afterwards.)  They fight over a lockup and land on the floor, but nothing happens. Back in, Victoria gets a backslide for two, as Lawler points out the green hanky in Lita’s pocket. So it’s time for the HANKY CODE! And it’s apparently “Dines off tricks” if worn in the left pocket, so Lita is apparently a whore.  (Yeah, “apparently”, Edge’s ex-wife says.)  They do a laughable pinfall reversal sequence until Victoria slams her into the standing moonsault for two. She hits the chinlock and then surfboards her, but Lita reverses into a headscissors. Corner clothesline, as everything looks really sloppy, including the elbow that gets two. Snap suplex and another headscissors as Lita comes back, and she gets a MAIN EVENT SLEEPER, but Victoria makes the ropes. She comes back with the sideslam for two. Moonsault misses and Lita rolls her up for two. Twist of Fate gets two. Another try is countered by Victoria into a small package for the pin at 7:22. I’m hoping to never see Lita wrestle again, as this was very sloppy and dull. Molly & Kim do the heel chick beatdown afterwards. ½* – Intercontinental title: Randy Orton v. Mick Foley. Randy’s pathetic little barbed-wire 2×4 is kinda sad, really. Foley attacks with the real one to start, pounding him into the corner until he bails, and they do a chase outside the ring until Orton is able to take him into the stairs. He gets the bat and they fight over it, but Foley wins that battle, so Orton clobbers him with a garbage can. He charges with it one time too many, however, and gets it kicked back in his face for his troubles. Back in, Mick stomps him down and chokes away, setting up the kneelift and a legdrop that gets two. To show you the miracle of WWE camera work, from our position that legdrop missed by a foot, literally, but looked fine with the quick cut. (Whatever directors they had performing those miracles are long gone now.)  Baseball slide puts Orton on the floor, and he follows with a neckbreaker. Foley goes up, but Orton evades any potential big elbows being dropped. They fight up the ramp, but Orton suplexes him there for two. Backslide gets two. I guess that was more for the surprise factor. With scientific wrestling not working, he slams Foley’s head back into the ramp and gets two. Back to ringside, where Foley meets the stairs, and Orton brings him back in and tries to introduce him to the barbed-wire, but Foley fights him off and goes low to escape. He brings forth the sock, but then polls the crowd on whether they’d rather see that or the bat, and the bat wins. There’s a certain charming element of total insanity there that you’d don’t see in normal sports. Orton eats the barbed-wire and starts bleeding, and Foley drops an elbow with the bat. He works on the cut and slugs away in the corner, then follows with the running knee to the face. Then he rubs the bat into Orton’s face for good measure, sending him scurrying. Mick keeps on him with the barbs and the wire and the hurting, and then takes it to the NEXT LEVEL by legdropping the baseball bat onto his crotch. Shane McMahon was going APESHIT at this point, by the way. So was I. Foley heads out for a gas can and a lighter (throw in some booze and you’ve got a PARTY!), but Eric Bischoff threatens to stop the show if he lights the bat. So Mick tosses it aside and uses a baking sheet instead. And then he finds a barbed-wire covered plywood sheet. Shane is nearly jumping up and down on his seat at this point. Foley slugs him into position, but gets powdered and slammed onto the table. Well, he’s the one who brought it in. Orton gets two off that. Orton puts the sheet in the corner and they reverse each other until Foley inevitably ends up getting whipped into the barbed wire. Orton drops the barbed wire on him for extra incentive. And speaking of incentive, Orton dumps a bag of tacks on the mat. Orton tries an RKO, but Foley dumps him onto the tacks. Jesus, even HHH wasn’t crazy enough to try that spot. The tacks are EVERYWHERE, stuck into Orton’s HAND and back, and Foley cradles for two. In moderation, those kinds of sick spots are VERY cool. (And totally safe.  It looks sick and doesn’t feel good, but there’s nothing inherently dangerous about a bunch of thumbtacks unless you get one in your eye or something.)  Orton retreats up the ramp, but Mick’s in no mood for moderation, so he brawls with him and then tosses him off the stage, through a table below. That’s even sicker considering he landed on the thumbtack-covered back. Foley, crazy man, follows with an elbow off the stage. The arena thought it was over at that point, but Orton kicks out at two. Back to the ring, where Foley DDTs him for two. He sets up the barbed-wire sheet in the corner again, but Orton nails him with the bat to draw blood, and then pounds him down caveman-fashion. However, age and guile defeat youth and power in this case, as Orton then walks into a Mandible Sock. He goes low to break. Foley goes back to the claw, but Orton escapes with an RKO. That gets two. Another one, onto the bat, gets the pin at 23:04. Orton was over bigtime with the crowd here after that. **** I liked it better live, because of the more visceral feelings of being there to see the beatings, but it was still a great coming-out party for Orton.  (And from there he went up to the main event for good.)  – La Resistance v. Hurricane & Rosey. This was the bathroom / concession / merchandise break for me and everyone else. Hurricane grabs a headlock on Conway to start, but gets hiptossed. Back to it, but Conway escapes again, only to see his clever hiptoss plan foiled. Rosey hiptosses Hurricane onto Conway for two. Conway charges and hits elbow, but takes Hurricane off the top with a neckbreaker. Sweet. Powerslam and Grenier comes in for two. Backbreaker gets two. Suplex and he whips Hurricane into the corner, setting up a bearhug. Eugene wanders out, however, as Rosey gets the “hot” tag and slams Conway and Grenier. Samoan drop gets two. La Rez try a double-team, but Eugene plays with the Quebec flag. La Rez gets dumped and Hurricane hits them with a crossbody to the floor. Eugene comes into the ring and runs the ropes in a totally pointless segment, and Hurricane hits Conway with the Eye of the Hurricane at 5:01. This all looked totally screwed up. DUD  (Man, Hurricane and Rosey were about on par with Epico and Primo on the food chain of WWE tag champions who the company pretty much forgot about even as champions.)  – Kane v. Edge. Kane’s pyro fails to go off, which explains his surly nature. Earl Hebner is the ref here, which immediately distracts the entire crowd. Edge’s pop is pretty weak, too. Edge slugs on Kane to start, but gets nowhere. He pounds away in the corner, but gets choked down. Kane works on the bad arm, but Edge hits him with a clothesline out of the corner, and Kane bails. Edge baseball slides him and sends him into the post, but preps the announce table to no avail. Kane rams the bad arm into the stairs and stomps on it back in the ring, as they totally lose the crowd. He gets two. Kane goes to a wristlock as JR & King meander with their commentary, having nothing to talk about. Edge fights up, but gets sideslammed. Kane misses an elbow, however, and Edge comes back with a leg lariat, only to run into a big boot. Kane goes up and Edge follows, but gets knocked down again. Kane whiffs on the clothesline and Edge gets the DDT, but Kane does the zombie situp. He goes for the chokeslam, but Edge uses the cast with the ref on the floor, and spears him for the pin at 6:25. Maybe it’s time to repackage Glen Jacobs again. ¾*  (They kind of did with the Snitsky thing, in fact.  This was of course before the actual Edge v. Kane feud we got in 2005, which at least had the benefit of a WRESTLING WEDDING.)  – RAW World title: Chris Benoit v. HHH v. Shawn Michaels. Benoit brings the awesome by holding the belt in the faces of both challengers, just because he CAN. Some fans in the front row get on Shawn a bit during intros, but that’s nothing compared to the ambush we had in store for him later. Benoit attacks HHH to start and it’s a three-way slugfest in the corner until Benoit & Michaels work together for a backdrop and dump HHH. Shawn turns on Benoit and they exchange chops, which Benoit wins in intense fashion, and he kills Shawn with a lariat out of the corner.  (Poor choice of words there.)  Shawn comes back with a neckbreaker, but HHH joins us again and slugs it out with Shawn. High knee puts Shawn down and HHH goes after Benoit next and tosses him, thus killing the crowd’s interest in the match as a whole. Shawn gets an atomic drop on HHH and slugs him down, but puts his head down and HHH goes for the Pedigree. Shawn escapes and they both knock Benoit off the apron again, but he makes it back in and throws a suplex on Shawn, and another for HHH. Back to Shawn, but he blocks, so Benoit chops them both down instead and backdrops HHH. Shawn throws his wussy chops again, so Benoit whips him out of the ring. HHH dives off the middle rope, but lands in a crossface. Benoit breaks to go after Shawn again, possibly because he’s still pissed about Shawn hitting like a girl.  (Obviously he had anger issues even then.)  Back in, Benoit goes up, but gets knocked down by HHH and they slug it out on top. HHH tries a superplex, but Shawn breaks it up and Benoit hits the floor. Shawn takes HHH down with an electric chair and gets two. He slugs away on HHH, but walks into a facecrusher and both guys are out. Benoit sneaks in with a flying headbutt on Shawn, however, and gets two. HHH and Benoit slug it out and HHH loses that battle by getting tossed, but Benoit can’t suplex Michaels. The ref gets bumped on a forearm attempt by Shawn, and that allows HHH to go for the Pedigree, which Benoit reverses to a Sharpshooter attempt, but HHH fights him off. Benoit takes him down again and gets it this time, but there’s no ref. Shawn breaks it up, but gets taken down into a crossface as a result, so that was more of a pyrrhic victory. Benoit tries to revive the ref with no luck, but Shawn takes him down into a Sharpshooter as Earl Hebner runs out as the new ref. This was supposed to be heel heat, but it was more like “I can’t believe they’re doing this” heat, and it just made us more pissed off at everyone involved in Montreal. Shawn breaks the move and slugs away on HHH in the corner, and now begins the mother of all “You Screwed Bret” chants at Shawn as he gets two on Benoit. TV doesn’t even do the chant justice, as it was THUNDEROUS live. Even Shane was chanting it! Benoit takes him down into the crossface, which makes us all happy, but HHH breaks it up. I love JR & King doing their “get over it” speech to us, even though it was precipitated by a spot STOLEN FROM MONTREAL just five seconds earlier! HHH DDTs Benoit for two. HHH starts throwing chops, and now we get on HHH with “You tapped out”, which he seems to have inherited from Brock. Benoit comes back with chops and whips him out of the ring, but Shawn clotheslines him for two. Benoit fights back with chops, but gets tossed, so an annoyed Shawn goes up and overshoots, putting himself through the table with a crossbody attempt. HHH takes over on Benoit, whipping him into the stairs and bringing him in for a beating. Into the post goes Benoit, on both sides of the ring, and he hits the floor off the second one. Back in, HHH milks an “asshole” chant and slugs Benoit down again, into a camel clutch now. HHH pounds away in the corner, until Benoit hotshots him to break free, thus ending the only really weak part of the match. HHH gets a facecrusher, but walks into the rolling germans, and Benoit goes up, but misses the headbutt. Lawler notes that “showboats come crashing down to earth” before switching to a more apt metaphor about boats sinking. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two, as Shawn revives and saves. Everyone is out, as HHH & Michaels revive first and slug it out, which no one cares about because they ain’t Benoit. Shawn gets the flying forearm and he’s filled with the PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Without the stigmata, or Mel directing.  (Yeah, that one never really got over.)  Shawn goes up with the flying elbow and tunes up the band, but the crowd won’t play along. Shawn takes it out on Benoit, superkicking him off the apron, which draws huge heel heat, but HHH goes low on him and gets two. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, but Shawn reverses him out of the ring. HHH gets his trusty sledgehammer and hits Shawn in the back, right in the same spot as he did at Summerslam 2002 (nice touch, indeed). He overreacts the same way Bill does. Benoit tries to come back, but eats the stairs again at the hands of HHH. HHH sets up the stairs and tries a Pedigree on them, but Benoit catapults him into the post to remove him from the equation. Benoit heads back into the ring, nearly walking into a superkick from Shawn, but he catches the leg and takes him down into the Sharpshooter, as the crowd goes INSANE. Shawn makes the ropes, but Benoit pulls him back, and it’s Tap City, Population 1, at 30:09. Technical note: Nancy and the kids are seen at ringside, but they were only there for the previous insert and this match, as they left and were replaced by seat-fillers for the rest of the show. Couple of slow spots as compared to the non-stop action of Wrestlemania, but this stands as the second-best three-way ever. ****3/4 I’d say Benoit’s push is for real now.  (As it turned out, no.)  After the PPV ended, Benoit wrapped himself in the Canadian flag and then verbally punked out Shawn, telling him to “pack his bags and go home because he’s not wanted here”, and then got into a confrontation with HHH, who promised never to tap again. He then tapped to a crossface to end the show for us. The Bottom Line: One **** match is generally enough for a thumbs-up from me, and this one had two, which made for one of the best shows I’ve ever attended live. Most of the rest was filler, but it was filling around some great matches, so that’s fine. Thumbs way up. To be continued in the RAW Rant, coming later! The SmarK RAW Rant – April 19 2004 Just when you thought a road trip couldn’t get any weirder, it does. I headed down to Calgary on Monday afternoon, to be honest more pumped about the hockey game later that night than the wrestling I was attending, and ended up in quite the adventure. We picked up the tickets from the Will Call about half an hour before RAW went on the air, and immediately braced for disappointment when they were in the 201 section this time. However, a guy who was (supposedly) comped by Val Venis the night before was sitting in the grass outside the Saddledome and offered to trade ours for his in section 109, because he had to get rid of them to fill seats. So right off the bat, good stuff. So it turns out that the seats were in basically the same place as the PPV — right beside the hard camera, in the “comp section”, this time to the left and behind the lighting control guy. Sidenote: You get all sorts of interesting views when sitting behind the tech guys, like the SCRIPT, for instance. Over the course of the two evenings I was able to check out actual WWE scripts, complete with fancy cover page and everything, and yes, it’s all written down there. You can also see the lighting guy using a layout of the Saddledome to check which buttons to push to blacken which parts of the arena. Very neat stuff for tech-heads like myself. Okay, so back to the main story, and I should set this up a little bit. Rather than the usual crew, I went to this one with Zen and his friend Dave Burton. If you’ve ever seen Fubar, you’ve seen Dave. He wore a trucker hat and an Iron Maiden shirt to the show, and he was primarily concerned with seeing the “rasslin” aspect of the show, which was something of a warning sign right off the bat for us because it’s a TV taping. So as noted, we’re in the comp section, and once again we’re sitting right by who else but Shane McMahon again. This time his date is Nidia instead of Palumbo, which is a step up in the looks department if nothing else. Zen thinks it’s a good time to get a picture with him after the show as a keepsake, so we decide to ask him after the show is over. Now, the Saddledome was mostly blocked off because of the hockey game last night — there was maybe 6,000 people there and all of the upper deck was taped off — and the crowd was pretty distracted by the impending game, although I don’t know how that came off on TV. So there was kind of an anxious mood all night. Dave, in particular, was anxious because he was promised fireworks, and they immediately raise his ire by skipping them and going right to the show. He complains loudly. The night progresses with a lot of talk and commercial breaks, because it’s TV and that’s what you’re getting into, and Dave gets drunker and more restless. The show might have come off really good on TV, but I was pretty distracted by the tech guys and Dave, so I could never get into it live. So by the millionth commercial break, Dave gets really loud, proclaiming that the show sucks and he’s tired of sitting through commercial breaks and there’s only been a few minutes of wrestling — so Shane McMahon turns around and GIVES HIM $100 (US) TO SHUT UP AND GO HOME. We took a picture of the bill and Shane just to make sure it was documented. So ladies and gentlemen, you now have your new rating scale for bad shows, as I will begin implementing the Shane McMahon Refund System to determine how much money Shane will bribe people with to shut up about it. Needless to say, we didn’t ask for the picture after all. So with that said, onto the show… – Live from Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Your hosts are JR & King – Opening match: Chris Jericho v. Christian. They fight over a lockup to start and Jericho gives him a shot in the corner and then goes to a headlock, so Christian gets into a slugging match with him and loses. Jericho backdrops him and starts chopping in the corner. Christian comes back, but Jericho dropkicks him for two. Back to the headlock, but Christian fights out of it again and slugs him down on the ropes. They do the pinfall reversal sequence for a few near-falls, and Jericho spanks Trish, as we take a break. The four minutes during the break were actually very entertaining, with a few highspots from Jericho and not the usual stalling by the heel. We return with Christian in control, choking Jericho out on the ropes and Trish adding a cheapshot. Jericho bails to regroup, but gets kicked in the head as a result. Man, if that ain’t a metaphor for love sometimes. (I was actually one month into the relationship that would result in my marriage, so I know from whence I speak.)  Back in, Christian hits the chinlock, but Jericho uses the power of a hot crowd to fight out, into a rollup for two. Christian clotheslines him down again for two. More choking on the ropes, but Jericho fights back with a clothesline. He tries another one, but Christian ducks, so Jericho goads him into a drop toehold and gets the running choke. Bulldog sets up the Lionsault, which misses, but a leg lariat gets two. Another bulldog try is countered with an inverted DDT that gets two for Christian. He goes up and gets caught with a butterfly superplex by Jericho (a move that Jericho messed up at Wrestlemania), and Jericho gets two. Christian comes back with another inverted DDT, off the middle rope, for two. Jericho cradles for two. Trish tries to trip Jericho up, but hits Christian by mistake, and Jericho gets the enzuigiri. The ref is distracted, however, and Jericho goes after Trish again before trying the Walls on Christian, but Tyson Tomko runs in to deliver a big boot that gets Christian the pin at 16:07. Hate the finish, but it was a really good chunk of TV match. ***1/4 – Chris Benoit joins us to celebrate retaining the title at Backlash. He talks about Stu Hart and cuts a surprisingly confident promo about how everyone doubted him and he proved them all wrong.  (We should have doubted him, I guess.)  You tell ‘em, Chris. Shawn Michaels interrupts, and the “You Screwed Bret” chants start up again. History has shown that if Shawn ever needs to turn heel, he just needs a match in MSG or a run of shows in Canada. (Shawn is now as beloved up here as anywhere else, so obviously we’ve gotten over it.)  Anyway, he continues to question Benoit’s dedication to being the VERY, very, best (as opposed to being just the very best) and Benoit thinks he’s all that. But apparently you can’t be the best until you beat Shawn. God, how many title matches does this prima donna get before he takes the hint and realizes he’s lost all of them? (Well, another Wrestlemania main event, at least.) He’s becoming the Buffalo Bills of the RAW title scene. (Or the Vancouver Canucks.  THERE, I SAID IT.)  So he lays out the challenge, Benoit accepts, and then they do what they usually do in Canada and delay the match to a later date because we “don’t deserve it”. Bischoff getting Johnny Nitro to check his PDA is just really funny for some reason.  (This was of course shortly before smartphones took over the world.) So anyway, the World title match is in Phoenix two weeks from now, so Benoit offers a handshake and they do the staredown. Now when Shawn loses THAT one, I hope he moves on with life or takes up needle-point or something.  (That ended up being a hell of a match too and I think it was leading to a PPV match between them but Shawn got injured or something along those lines.)  – Women’s title: Victoria v. Molly Holly. Molly attacks to start and snapmares her into a dropkick for two. Handspring elbow is blocked by Victoria, who gets a crossbody for two. They criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Victoria, who follows with a clothesline off the apron. Back in, Molly tries to run, but gets yanked off the ropes, into the standing moonsault for two. Victoria rips the wig off, but this time Molly actually channels her rage in a positive direction, beating the shit out of Victoria and choking her out for the DQ at 2:19. It’s like Bald Backlund or something, but I’m glad to see Molly dealing with her baldness in better manner than losing every match. * – Meanwhile, HHH and Evolution arrive, and HHH isn’t happy to hear about Shawn getting the next title shot. – Kane vignette, as he promises to be bigger, meaner, and more pro-active. Yup, it’s a renewed push for Kane, just what we needed. He hungers for a sacrifice. Mmmm….sacrifice.  (How many times has Kane given that exact same interview?)  – Meanwhile, Uncle Eric and Johnny worry about Kane’s assertive new direction, but the knock on the door is just William Regal. Once again, Eugene has been conveniently lost. Whoops. But Eric lays down the law, and threatens him with Kane-ness unless Eugene is found again. – Randy Orton, fresh off retiring Mick Foley again, joins us to brag about it. He points out that Mick beat him to within an inch of his life with all the odds stacked against him, but he still beat him clean with the RKO. Man’s got a point. That’s called “making a new star”, for those keeping track at home. (This was really the last guy that Foley got over in that manner before he turned into self-parody in that role.)  Edge interrupts the self-glorification, and thank GOD they’re putting him in the Evolution program instead of keeping him side-drained against Kane for any longer.  (Yeah, but then Benoit got Kane instead.  Lucky him.)  Edge wants the honor of having the new Living Legend spitting in his face, but hey, he’s tired and sore. Edge apparently really likes spit, because he attacks Orton and fights off Evolution, but falls prey to a Batista demon bomb. Benoit makes the save, but HHH clobbers HIM and it’s beatdown city. You know, the Four Horsemen didn’t end EVERY segment having clobbered the babyfaces. Bischoff books the tag champs against Edge & Benoit – TONIGHT. I guess we’re worthy of that match. – Garrison Cade v. Tajiri. Cade got the generic rock music in the breakup with Jindrak. Tajiri ducks Cade in the corner and fires off some kicks, but Cade slugs him down. Tajiri takes him down and gets a dropkick for two. Cade blocks the handspring elbow with a big boot for two. Backbreaker, but Tajiri kicks out of it, so Cade stomps a mudhole in the corner. Suplex is blocked by Tajiri, but Cade pounds the back again. Tajiri fights back with more kicks, and this time the handspring elbow hits. Cade pounds the back again and tries a powerbomb, but Tajiri kicks him down for two. Tarantula attempt is no-sold by Cade, so Tajiri goes up and misses a moonsault. Cade finishes with a flying elbow at 4:17. I have no idea what they see in Cade – he’s just a big muscular lug with blond hair. Oh, I guess that’s it. ½*  (RIP) – Back from the break, Eugene is shooting t-shirts into the crowd (that actually went on all through the break, too) but Regal comes out to stop him…and gets shot in the crotch. T-SHIRT TO THE GROIN! T-SHIRT TO THE GROIN! If they can get Eugene over as a legitimate fan favorite, great, because he can actually back it up in the ring, unlike everyone else they’ve tried this basic gimmick with.  (I still think they should have done the David Cross plot from “Just Shoot Me” where he’s just pretending to be retarded but is actually an evil genius.)  – Val Venis & Lita v. Matt Hardy & Gail Kim. No match, as Kane storms out and kills everyone…except for Matt, who runs away. However, seeing Lita in danger, he does the right thing and sacrifices himself for her. Awwww. While I’m on the subject, how lazy is it for them to announce Gail Kim from “Korea”? That’s like introducing someone from “Carolina”. Why not make it North Korea and have her threaten to nuke another Diva or something? Really go for the cheap heat brass ring. – For those keeping track, it’s at this point where Dave makes his fateful stupid remark and gets bribed by Shane McMahon. For those wondering, I agreed fully with Shane’s stance. – RAW tag titles: Ric Flair & Batista v. Chris Benoit & Edge. I’d like to think “Youngbloods” would be a good name for the challengers, although “Spinal Fusion” might also fit. Benoit powers Flair into the corner and exchanges chops with him, and Flair gets pinballed by the challengers. Benoit backdrops Flair and Edge comes in with his own backdrop and some chops, and it’s some good Canadian ones, too. Flair Flops and tags in Batista as JR calls this Edge’s first match back on RAW in 14 months. Actually, longer than that, since he’s been on Smackdown since the initial split. Batista uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS, but Edge dropkicks him and brings in Benoit again. He brings the VIOLENCE in the corner, into a snap suplex, and Edge goes next, but walks into a clothesline. Back to Flair, who goes after the broken hand, and Batista joins in the fun. I’m not sure I understand JR’s objection to them doing that – Edge is wearing a CAST on his hand, what does he want them to do, ignore it? It’s like when DDT would wear rib tape every week and the announcers would get all shocked when someone hit him there. Edge fights back, however, and gets a leg lariat Back to Benoit, who chops away and backdrops Flair again, and then knocks Batista off the apron too. Snap suplex into a Sharpshooter, but he releases long enough to suplex Batista, and then takes Flair down into a crossface. Benoit is so in the zone right now. HHH runs in and breaks it up, however, drawing Benoit’s attention long enough for Flair to poke him in the eyes. Batista adds the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER and we take a break. At this point, the tech guys at the soundboards switch the monitors over to the hockey game on CBC, and leave it there for the rest of the show. I shit you not. Back with the champs in control (you didn’t miss much – Batista getting the bearhug and the heels switching off, basically) and Batista pounding Benoit down on the mat. Back to the bearhug, but Benoit fights out, only to walk into an elbow that gets two. HHH adds an elbow from the outside and Batista goes to a choke on the mat while the crowd chants for Bret. Benoit fights out with an evil backdrop suplex, but Flair gets the tag first. Benoit backslides him for two. Flair throws chops, but Benoit goes to the rolling germans and chops him down, hot tag Edge. He backdrops people and clotheslines Flair, but Batista tries a powerbomb, which results in Benoit breaking it up and going up. HHH pulls him down and pounds him on the floor, but Shawn runs out and gets rid of him with a superkick, allowing Edge to spear Batista to win the tag titles at 18:04. See, now that’s how to revive Edge – let him do the hot tag thing while Benoit carries the workload. And let the “Benoit is overpushed” backlash begin! Hell, I’ve been waiting like 10 years to be forced into dealing with it! I’m so ready! ***3/4 Later that night… We headed over to the Whiskey to catch Fozzy, and it was an interesting setup because they had the game playing on screens over the stage. The opener sucked but the place was empty anyway. So Fozzy is playing and the game goes on, and it’s a pretty cool set, and then the really surreal stuff started happening. Jericho had worn a Flames jersey onto the stage, and as the set was 90 minutes old, he admitted that the band had run out of material to play and now they were just fucking around waiting for the Flames to win. It was 2-1 Flames late in the third by that point. Earlier, Edge and Matt Hardy had wandered into the mosh pit with us, and Brian Christopher danced a bit on stage, but pussed out on singing. So they start doing a cover of “TNT”, and Jericho starts introducing wrestlers as they delay while the game wraps up. So you’ve got Jericho, Edge, Hardy, Christopher, Shelton Benjamin, Lita, Stacy, Nidia and Lillian Garcia all up there fucking around…and the Canucks score with 2 seconds left in the game. Jericho is just totally buzz-killed (I tried consoling him by flipping him off after he started a “fuck the Canucks” chant earlier, but it didn’t work). So they go into OT, with the Flames still on the PP and the Canucks missing Bertuzzi AND their #1 goaltender (just saying), and Gelinas scores to win the series. The place went crazy and Jericho finished the song (which by this point was nearing 30 minutes long) with all the WWE guys helping to sing. He had to feed Lillian the words for her turn, because she didn’t know them. Fozzy were actually a very capable rock band, and Jericho has an undeniably cool stage presence and rapport with the crowd, although I really don’t dig their actual SONGS. They were at their best covering other material (like “Eat the Rich” and “Livewire”), and it made for a really good show overall. So having been previously promised a picture with Edge at some nebulous time after the show, we start going after the wrestlers for pictures, and keep losing them to the crowd, before it gets down to our only chance being either Shelton or Nidia. Shelton gets taken to the back as well for the private party, and since Nidia is just scraping the bottom of the barrel, we give up and go home. However, that proved to be more difficult than originally planned, because we’re in downtown Calgary and the place is RIOTING. Fans are going nuts in the streets and the streets are clogged with parked cars and partying fans…and Dave decides to join in. So Zen (an Oilers fan) and I (a Canucks fan) are trapped in this car as he stops at EVERY INTERSECTION and jumps out of the car to celebrate, and finally after nearly another half an hour, we make it off of 17th and back to Zen’s place to recover, and here we are with me back in Edmonton two days later and detailing the whole adventure for y’all. So for those who think that nothing interesting ever happens in Calgary, there you go. The Bottom Line: While I wasn’t into the show live, it made for some really good TV, setting a further escalation of the Benoit/friends v. Evolution feud and really cementing him as a top guy who’s comfortable in his spot. And with HHH off to make movies for the next six months, why not let him run with the ball? Ratings aren’t going down and buyrates are going up, so he’s as good a choice as anyone. Big thumbs up from me this week, although sitting in attendance for it was a much different experience.

Assorted April PPV Countdown: Backlash 2003

The SmarK Rant for Backlash 2003

“As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. And really, that’s all this is, except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you, so let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity, so… be honest. How do you feel?”?

Sometimes a show just leaves you with no choice but to quote The Princess Bride. (2012 Scott sez:  One of those movies where I’m compelled to drop everything and watch it if it’s on TV.  Thankfully I haven’t checked if it’s on Netflix because otherwise I’d never get any work done.)  – As most of you have probably figured out or read by now, when I do PPVs, I watch them live with friends the first time through, and then take the tape home and watch it alone for the actual rant. (Those of you who have noted about my differing reactions to live and delayed shows will understand the logic behind this method, I’m sure.)  This was one of those shows where I wasn’t looking forward to watching it and once I had watched it, I wasn’t looking forward to watching it again. Why? Well, first and foremost it wasn’t a card that held promise in either direction for my best work – I’m most proficient with shows that are either uniformly terrible or uniformly great, and the bland buildup and dull card for this one didn’t exactly foreshadow either outcome. (Sound familiar?) Second, a bunch of guys I like watching, like Benoit, Rhyno and Matt Hardy to name three, were absent from the card for absolutely no reason other than the writers being unable to think of any way to make them fit.  (Sound familiar? Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, etc.)  Third, the issues developed in a couple of matches aren’t leading anywhere I have any interest in seeing, and what’s worse, they’re the matches that are supposed to headline the next PPV. This is a company that’s supposed to have the deepest talent pool in history, so deep they needed to split into two separate brands because gosh darnit there’s just so much talent, and what’s the next programs to carry the company? Brock-Big Show in a program that didn’t draw the first two times we saw it (which was only two months ago), and Nash-HHH in a program that’s being booked to amuse basically five guys while entire crowds sit on their hands.  (Good thing they’d be smart enough to avoid going that route in 2011.  Oh, wait.)  Why the fuck am I supposed to be excited about either one of those? Or Nathan Jones & Undertaker v. The FBI, for that matter. Or Hulk Hogan limping to the ring as Mr. America. Are there actually people (i.e. Vince) who are sitting there and thinking this stuff is INTERESTING? There used to be a time when TSN pre-empting RAW for hockey would piss me off for days, now I’m more curious about whether Anaheim can go up 3-0 on Dallas than I am about whether Nash & HHH will reconcile.  (Anaheim made it to the Stanley Cup finals that year, in fact, but lost to New Jersey.  In case you’re curious.)  And when were Nash & HHH ever FRIENDS in the storylines, to begin with? It’s all the little things like that which annoy me the most, and the overall product is boring me to tears right now, which is why you’re reading this rant as late as you are, because I can’t be bothered to stay up until 2AM recapping the same crap month after month if they can’t be bothered to give me something I’m entertained by. – Update: Although I typed the above up at 12:00, I was still so unmotivated to watch the show that I decided to take a walk and pick up some groceries first, just so I could formulate some more thoughts. – Live from Worcester, MA. – Your hosts are Coach, King, Cole & Tazz. – Weird thing about the opening video package is that they use the numbers from Goldberg’s WCW winning streak to hype the match, but they never really ACKNOWLEDGE that streak or his past history on RAW while building up to the match. – Opening match, Smackdown tag titles: Team Angle v. Los Guerreros. Team Angle has a very classy portrait of Kurt Angle with them for inspiration, which you’d think would fall under the Birthday Cake Rule. Eddie jockeys with Haas to start and takes him down, but Haas floats over for two. Eddie works on a headlock and overpowers him for two. Small package gets two as Eddie goes for the quick win, and Haas backs off. Why the Guerreros are cool: Because Chavo actually uses the tag rope, although to be fair, so does Benjamin. Speaking of which, they tag in and Chavo gets caught in a wristlock, but gets an awkward legbar takedown for two, which Benjamin reverses for two. Chavo goes for the arm and Eddie helps out on it and pounds Benjamin with forearms for two. Chavo stays on the arm with a cross armlock, but Benjamin makes the ropes. Speaking of which, Undertaker was at the UFC on Friday night, presumably teaching all the kids how to do a proper triangle choke. (I’d like to see him coaching on Ultimate Fighter and teaching sledgehammer defense while applying a gogoplata.)  A little cheating by the Guerreros keeps Shelton in the Latino corner, and ref distraction allows Chavo to choke him out with the tag rope. Good man, although Cole justifies it with “Turnabout is fair play”, which is not only trite, but incorrect, since Team Angle hasn’t cheated yet.  (Also, if turnabout is fair play, then how come two wrongs don’t make a right?)  Chavo tosses him and Eddie pounds him on the floor, and Chavo hits a backdrop suplex for two. Eddie comes in with the hilo dive for two. Another backdrop suplex seems to shake up Benjamin, and he tags out to Haas and sits in the corner for a while. Haas gets a backdrop and Benjamin recovers with some choking of his own, and a suplex for two. Leapfrog choke gets two for Haas. Haas stomps away with malice for two, and hits the chinlock. Eddie suplexes out with the nastiest backdrop in wrestling, but Haas does a nice takedown to cut off the tag. Team Angle switches off without a tag (Sure, I can see how the ref would mix them up…) and Benjamin cuts off the tag again with a leglock. I would have popped huge if he had locked in the heelhook like Minoru Tanaka. Powerslam gets two, and he hits the chinlock, wearing Eddie down into a pinning predicament for two. Haas comes in and stomps away again, into a backbreaker submission move. Haas tries a gutwrench, but Eddie reverses to a flying headscissors, and then dives into the hot tag to Chavo. He cleans house with dropkicks and backdrops and all that fun stuff, and Team Angle collides in the corner. Suplex gets two on Haas. Benjamin kills him dead with a powerbomb, but Eddie comes off the top with a missile dropkick and then starts with the rolling vertical suplexes on Haas. Chavo crawls over for two. He gets another dropkick and Eddie comes in uninvited with a frog splash, thus earning him a trip back to the apron again. Chavo gets two regardless, but Benjamin pulls him off at two. Chavo suplexes Haas, but Benjamin trips him up and hangs on to give Haas the pin at 15:03. Chavo dives onto the celebrating champions, but the picture survives the attack, and Los Guerreros steal the titles to add another cliché to the mix. Good match, although nothing you haven’t seen on Smackdown a million times. ***  (The Guerreros eventually did regain the belts on the same show as the Brock-Angle iron man match, although by then there were much bigger plans for Eddie in the works anyway.  And I feel like this was underrated by me.)  – Meanwhile, Test forces himself on Torrie. – Sean O’Haire v. Rikishi. O’Haire meets the stairs right away as they brawl outside, and Rikishi gets a pair of clotheslines back in and a samoan drop. Piper tries to interfere and gets caught, allowing O’Haire to get a superkick and take over. That whole sequence was really poorly done. Piper gets some lame shots in, and O’Haire hits him with a corner clothesline and a lariat for two. Crowd completely loses interest as he goes to a neck vice. Why they completely forced O’Haire to change his high-flying style to this lumbering heavyweight WWE style is beyond me, but it’s not for the better. The crowd gets annoyed by security taking a beach ball away and O’Haire gets two. Why does security take beach balls away, anyway? I mean, god forbid people have fun at a show they’re paying $50-$100 to see. (Only WWE Approved Fun is allowed, carried out with precision so as to meet TV taping guidelines and remain within standards set by the network sponsors.  All rights reserved.) They exchange missed kicks and Rikishi splashes him in the corner twice to set up a Stinkface, which O’Haire blocks. Piper comes in loaded for bear with a coconut, as Rikishi & O’Haire kick each other into unconsciousness. Yeah, that’s what this match needed, a spot where both guys are out. Piper comes in again with the coconut, obviously missing his cue the first time, and Rikishi hits him with it, but falls prey to O’Haire’s spinebuster for the pin at 4:52. You know, with Jeff Hardy off to make “music” and sulk for a living, the swanton bomb is free again. Piper blades off the coconut shot, and the physics of that elude me, unless it’s a REALLY abrasive shell. This doesn’t bode well for O’Haire. -*1/2  (To say the least.  What a disaster that character change turned out to be.)  – Meanwhile, Torrie rats out Test to Stacy. I’ll save you the 15 minutes of character development that these segments entailed and just summarize the main points: Test is a lying fuckhead and Sable is a conniving bitch. – RAW tag titles: Kane & RVD v. The Dudley Boyz. Chief Morley is YOUR special guest referee. I don’t know how they’ve managed to take a feud with 10 different things going on at once and make it so boring, but they have. Sign in the front row: We Miss Regal. I guess HHH is making the signs now, too. Bubba hammers RVD to start and they do an awkward reversal sequence that goes nowhere. Bubba clotheslines him, but Rob gets a leg lariat for two. He walks into a lariat, allowing Bubba to bring in D-Von, but Rob catches him with the legdrop for two. Kane comes in and works the arm, and drops an elbow, then no-sells some offense from D-Von. They mess up a simple irish whip reversal spot and Kane gets a boot for two. D-Von clotheslines him for two. Bubba comes in and Kane controls him with clotheslines and pounds away in the corner, but D-Von cheapshots him and Bubba bulldogs him for two. Kane comes back with a MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER for two. Rob comes in and gets the moonsault for two. Bubba blocks the monkey flip with a sideslam, and the Dudleyz get the Whazzup Drop. D-Von gets the spinning elbow for two, and he hits the chinlock. Bubba comes in with his own. I’ve had warm milk and antihistamine smoothies that were less effective at putting me to sleep than this match. Finally Kane gets the hot tag and hits his usual stuff, then fights off the Dudleyz’s double team attempt. RVD tags in with a missile dropkick on D-Von and hits Bubba with Rolling Thunder. D-Von hits him with the neckbreaker out of the corner, but Kane clotheslines him off the top. Morley decides to go low on Kane and gives Bubba two. With that plan having failed, he tosses Kane and charges RVD, but hits Bubba by mistake. D-Von goes after him to get revenge, but Lance Storm charges in and gets disposed of. Morley starts pounding Bubba, but gets 3D’d out of the match, leaving us without a ref. You’d think that would be a DQ at the very least. Kane cleans house and RVD finishes Bubba with a frog splash as another ref comes in to count the pin at 13:01. Boring match with an overbooked finish that’ll probably result in some form of Dusty Finish tonight on RAW. *1/2  (I think the Duds ended up with the belts, but I can’t be bothered to care enough to check.)  – Meanwhile, Stacy confronts Torrie in the women’s locker room, where not only are a bunch of girls who aren’t even on the card hanging out, but Ivory is there wearing a towel. Did she just decide to have a shower for the hell of it?  (These days they’d be dressed in bathing suits from the Depression.)  – Women’s title: Trish Stratus v. Jazz. Jazz works a hammerlock to start, but Trish takes her down with La Majestral for two. Jazz hammers her on the back and gets a backbreaker, but Trish gets a clothesline for two. Jazz pounds her down again into the double chickenwing, and she stays on the back. Trish reverses a backbreaker into a gutwrench suplex that gets two, but Jazz takes her down again and buttdrops her. Trish gets a backslide, but the ref is distracted with Long and it only gets two. Jazz rolls her up for two, and starts slugging away, but Trish fires back. Trish charges and hits boot, and then the handstand rana is reversed to a Boston Crab by Jazz. Trish powers out and gets two, but Jazz reverses for one. Trish goes for the Crab herself, and then turns it into the STF in a nice touch. Jazz makes the ropes with Teddy’s help. Trish starts slugging away again and kicks her down for two. Jazz comes back with a jawbreaker and a dropkick for two. Trish escapes a suplex and hits the bulldog, but Teddy “Random Task” Long breaks up the pin by throwing his shoe at her, and then blames Whitie. Who throws a shoe? Honestly. Jazz cradles for two, and then blocks a sunset flip by holding the ropes and gets the pin and the title at 5:50. That’s probably as good as the women’s division is getting these days. **1/2 – Rey Mysterio v. Big Show. (Why would you bring in Mysterio and then immediately stick him in there against the biggest guy on the roster instead of protecting him?)  Sign in crowd: Big Show Loves Cher. Even this crowd’s SIGNS suck. Rey evades Show to start, and then dropkicks him coming in and pounds away in the corner. Show tosses him around, however, and Rey bails. Back in, Show catches him with a backbreaker. Show whips him into the corner and chokes away. I think this match came about because Vince visualized Rey doing all the “big man/little man” spots and bumping for Show, not caring about the damage it does to expose Rey like this. Show smacks him out of the ring, so Rey grabs a chair and nails Show behind the ref’s back. Back in with a Bombs Away that gets two. Rey gets three 619s to bring Show down, but he no-sells all of it and chokeslams Rey to finish the squash at 3:45, drawing no reaction for the win. Thus you’ve killed Rey’s finisher, made him look like a jobber, and annoyed the fans with regards to a guy who’s supposed to be challenging for the title next month. Rey does a stretcher job that no one buys, and Show then reappears and smashes the prone and helpless Rey into the post, dropping him on his head and nearly killing him in the process. I still can’t believe there are people who are paid to sit around and think of stuff like this as actual good ideas towards getting ANYONE over. DUD Further, you can’t even call this PPV caliber – there’s no reason why they couldn’t have this on Smackdown.  (Rey ended up doing OK for himself, obviously, but talk about counterproductive booking.)  – The backstage drama ends with Steiner yet again saving Stacy from Test. Who in their right mind would consider Scott Steiner, who openly brags about his sexual escapades as part of his pre-match spiel, to be a better choice of boyfriend than Test? Does anyone stop and consider the characters these people play before they write this stuff?  (Oh man, the Test-Steiner feud…good times.)  – Smackdown World title: Brock Lesnar v. John Cena. Cena busts what we from the hood call a “weak rhyme” before the match, and he attacks to start. Brock hammers him with knees and gets his triple backbreaker into a blockbuster slam. Vertical suplexes get two, and Brock goes to a facelock. You start throwing knees from that position and it’s over. Wrestling people don’t think that way, but I just wanted to point that out. He turns that into a fisherman’s suplex and then gorilla presses Cena before clotheslining him to the floor. Back in, Cena bails again, but gets pounded outside. Brock meets the stairs, however, and Cena takes over as a result. Brock starts bleeding, and they head back where Cena gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two, and Cena chokes him down. Elbow gets two. Reverse elbow gets two. He shoulderblocks Brock to the apron and chokes him on the ropes, then guillotines him with a legdrop to put him out again. Brock hits the post and they head back in, where Cena gets two. The excitement by Cole & Tazz isn’t shared by the crowd or anyone else. Cena hits the chinlock as I stop to ask this question: Why is it that a match like Hogan v. Vince, with two guys who don’t need the heat or the help, are given multiple ref bumps, table breaking, ladders and Roddy Piper in every effort to make it into a *** match by hook or by crook and entertain the fans, but two guys like Brock & Cena, who NEED to get over by any means in order to ensure the survival of the company, are left out here to die with a dull main event style match worked by two guys who aren’t ready to carry a main event on their own?  (Yeah, that John Cena, he needs all the help he can get to make it to main event level!) Brock escapes the chinlock, but Cena DDTs him for two. Clothesline gets two. Back to the chinlock and he gets the hooks in. Let’s go back to that point again, as you can even consider something like Test-Shane from Summerslam 99. It’s obvious they KNOW how to book show-stealing matches that make stars, and if ever there was a time to do so, it’s now. Trying to retrain fans to like wrestling is one thing, but there’s no “wrestling” here, it’s just the usual kick-and-punch offense that we’ve seen millions of times before. If you have nothing new to say with the match, it’s not going to say anything new. That seems obvious, sure, but that’s what they’re attempting to do – train guys in the homogenized WWE Main Event style until everyone is the same bland muscular mat-wrestler and then throw them out there together in interchangeable matches that the fans don’t care about. (And that’s what we have today.)  Brock makes the comeback and gets a powerslam for two, as the fans start to turn on him. They do a ref-bump fakeout and Cena goes low for two. Cena gets the somersault neckbreaker (Which we’ll call the Broken Record for lack of anything better from the announcers) for two, and Brock powers him into the corner. Cena grabs the chain, but the ref stops him, and Brock finishes with the F5 at 15:11. Throwing them out there for 15 minutes was suicide and it totally exposed both guys as not being ready. Even an 8-minute match would have fine, or throwing Benoit in there to make it a three-way and letting them both learn from him. The match, such as it was, had no real storyline to it, no psychology for the fans to follow and the finish was anticlimactic. *1/2 (Hopefully their rematch 9 years later will be better.)  – Chris Jericho, HHH & Ric Flair v. Shawn Michaels, Booker T & Kevin Nash. The total non-reaction to Nash’s entrance is both sad for someone making as much as he does, and funny for the same reason. All the excuses that apply to everyone else squashed by HHH over the past year – Can’t work, isn’t over, gets hurt too often – apply to Nash in SPADES and yet he’s shot to the top again with his buddy despite no justifiable reason to do so. That, my friends, is WCW logic. Speaking of WCW logic, Coach & Lawler stop and talk about the Clique as though fans at large know what they’re talking about, and then Coach notes that it was a long time ago and now they’re enemies. But since they’ve never even crossed paths in WWE canon, then logically you’d either have to conclude that they’re still friends behind the scenes (going by what those people who know about the Clique would know today) or else they were never friends to begin with (going by what those people who don’t read the internet would know). You can’t bring in a storyline point known by only 0.5% of the viewing audience and then act like it’s a big deal when HHH turns on Nash and expect it to draw money. That’s the same thing that happened to Vince Russo, with many of the same people oddly enough, and it’s crazy thinking. (2003 was not a strong year for WWE Creative in the least.)  Nash starts with HHH, but they both tag out to Michaels & Jericho without making contact. That fits with Nash’s usual workrate. Shawn jockeys with Jericho and neither guy can get their suplex, but Shawn rolls him up for two and Jericho reverses for two. Another round of that and they go into the Flair pinfall reversal sequence until Jericho slugs him down. Jericho goes for the Walls, but Shawn reverses out of it and brings in Big Poochie. Nash tosses Jericho, but stops to have an exciting jaw session with HHH and gets attacked from behind by Y2J. He boots Jericho down, however, and Booker comes in with a whiplash slam on Jericho that gets two. He chops away, but a charge hits elbow. He comes back with a flapjack for two, but gets caught in the heel corner. HHH comes in, but Booker kicks him down for two. HHH comes back with a facecrusher and chops away, but Booker slugs back. Flair and Jericho try working him over, but Booker fights out, only to walk into a MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER from HHH. Booker brings in Shawn, however, and he goes after Flair and atomic drops HHH. Forearm for Flair sets up the superkick, but HHH Pedigrees him to prevent a pinfall. Jericho comes in and gets two off that. Shawn & HHH slug it out, and HHH USES THE KNEE for two. Flair’s figure-four attempt is reversed for two. Shawn slugs Flair down, but Ric hangs onto the leg and allows Jericho to come back in with a backdrop suplex on Shawn. We hit the chinlock and Shawn powers out, but Jericho clotheslines him down again. HHH starts working the leg now, which sets up Flair’s usual efforts en route to the figure-four. They exchange chops and Shawn gets an enzuigiri. The sad thing is that you’ve got these six guys, and the match I’m curious to see now is Shawn v. Flair.  (I’d have to wait a while for that one.)  Shawn tackles him down for two. Shawn makes the “hot” tag to Nash, which the crowd seems to be less than thrilled about, and Big Lazy cleans house with slams as everyone jumps into his arms and bumps for him. Big boot for Jericho and Snake Eyes for HHH (who audibly calls “sideslam” on the way down) and indeed that follows as Nash gets two. Jericho tries hammering on the Nash Machine in the corner, but he too falls victim to the Mighty Sideslam. Nash powers out of the Pedigree using Prell Power, but Jericho breaks up the powerbomb with a missile dropkick. That’s the first time in the match that Nash has left his feet. Booker hammers on Jericho to set up the axe kick, and he superkicks Flair and Spinaroonies. Jericho gets dumped and Booker follows him out while Nash & HHH discuss hair-care secrets in the aisle under the pretext of fighting. Shawn slams Flair in the ring and goes for another superkick, but Jericho breaks it up with a bulldog and Flair gets the figure-four. Nash starts dissembling the ringside table, but decides not to powerbomb HHH onto it and inside takes on both Jericho & Flair in the ring. The ref is bumped in a contrived spot that takes 10 minutes to set up, and Nash powerbombs Jericho, but falls victim to HHH’s trusty sledgehammer and gets pinned at 17:52. My theory behind the pinfall: The sledgehammer, with the added force of HHH’s hand in front of it and Nash’s own hands clearly in front of his face, totalled the equivalent of a sledgehammer blow PLUS three punches. This was pretty dull stuff overall. **1/2 And how does it build up a title match when HHH has already pinned his challenger?  (Because he clearly…hey, LOOK OVER THERE!) Maybe they can go right to the Hairbrush on a Pole match. – The Rock v. Goldberg. Being that this is the WWE braintrust, the first thing they do is change Goldberg’s music, having not learned the lesson taught by WCW in 1999. It sounds like something off the original Terminator soundtrack, actually. They pay a guy X million dollars a year because he was a big star in WCW, but don’t want him to be associated with WCW any longer. Figure that one out. (I think the actual reason was that they didn’t want to shell out for the WCW music because they figured that they are WWE and infallible and thus fans wouldn’t tell the difference.)  Clearly ignoring JR’s exhortations over the years that this ain’t ballet, Goldberg does leg stretches in the corner to warm up. Rock is clearly the crowd favorite here, thanks to being more entertaining, a better worker, and a WWE product. Very long stall session to start and Goldberg overpowers Rock with the LOCKUP OF DEATH. You know, just because Hulk Hogan got that over 15 YEARS AGO doesn’t mean we still need it today. Another one and Rock bails. Back in, they exchange shots and Goldberg overpowers him again and dumps him. Rock takes a long count to waste more time. WCW was at least smart enough to limit Goldberg to 5 minutes or less. More stalling as Rock waits around outside, and then he catches him with a necksnap and a lariat. Crowd eats that up. Rock slugs away, but gets hit with Goldberg’s version of the Rock Bottom. That’s the first wrestling move from Goldberg in this match. Rock sells it FOREVER and Goldberg tries a spear, but misses and lands on the floor. Yeah, take an indestructible superman character and make him SELL, great plan. Rock gets the Scorpion King Deathlock and holds it for a long time, thus making Goldberg look even weaker, but he makes the ropes. Lawler correctly points out that he took the coward’s way out. There’s no excuse for silly mistakes like that – Goldberg should have powered out. Rock goes low, but Goldberg gets a fluke spear (move #2 on the match) and both guys are out. Goldberg makes the comeback and powerslams him (move #3) and gets two. Goldberg no-sells a couple of clotheslines, but Rock hits him with a spinebuster and kips up, thus turning himself babyface by making Goldberg look like a chump. Rock Bottom gets two. I love Rock like the son I never intend to have, (Although I did have a daughter.)  but this is so manipulative on his part that he’s going to kill Goldberg out of the chute. (Other things did that, but it sure didn’t help.)  Goldberg clotheslines him to cut off the spit-punch (drawing boos), but Rock hits him with a People’s Elbow for two. That spot is just BEGGING for Goldberg to pop up and spear him. Both guys crawl around as the match drags on, and Goldberg spears him. The crowd now totally turns on Goldberg, chanting “Goldberg sucks” while Rock slowly climbs to his feet and gets speared again. Jackhammer (move #4) finishes at 13:04. The only way this could have been ANY worse was if Rock had gone over, and for a minute there I was thinking they might do that, too. This just totally exposed Goldberg as a shitty worker with a limited moveset who’s out there for the paycheque and nothing more. Not that it’s a huge shock, but you can forget him carrying the company over the summer now. 1/2*  (Yup.  I was just watching Goldberg v. Raven and Goldberg v. Hogan today, and it’s night and day how much better the WCW agents were able to lay out the matches to play to Bill’s strengths.  They were short, explosive and didn’t make Goldberg do stuff he couldn’t do.)  The Bottom Line: The post-Wrestlemania suckitude has now set in en force, with the worst PPV of the year so far and worst since Unforgiven. And now that they’ve screwed up all the can’t-miss WCW retreads and still need to fill a three-hour PPV every month, it’s only gonna get worse. Think about THAT and be afraid.  (This was such a forgettable and crappy year for WWE.)  Thumbs down.

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 2000

The Netcop Rant for Backlash 2000 – Live from Washington, D.C., proud home of Marion Berry, Tammy Sytch’s favorite mayor. – Your hosts are JR & The King. – And we get a bit of shock right away, as Debra comes to the ring, three months early for Fully Loaded, if you know what I mean. We’re talking Scott Hall terroritory here. And she’s the RING ANNOUNCER for the first match? Alcohol and microphones don’t mix, kids. – Opening match, WWF tag titles: Edge & Christian v. High & Dry. (Wait a sec, I’m assuming X-Pac would be “High”, but how would Road Dogg be “Dry”? That joke name doesn’t even make SENSE!) Nice to see that X-Pac has recovered enough from the death in the family to get right back on the bus and start thrusting his crotch at people again. Edge & X-Pac start. X-Pac bumps around a bit and gets leg lariated to the floor. DX regroups and Road Dogg pounds on Christian. He gets sent to the floor and eats stairs, thus going into the Ricky Morton role. Literally, in fact, as this match is a dead-on impersonation of the millions of Andersons v. Rock n Roll Express matches that happened in 85-86, and I mean that in the nicest way. (That’s quite the exaggeration there.  Somehow I don’t think this was quite up to that level, although E&C were going into their prime as a tag team as this point.)  Back in, and a false tag for the champs leads to heavy double-teaming from DX. A broncobuster leads to a chinlock to kill time. Edge sneaks in a diving headbutt on Road Dogg to give the champs a two count. Hot tag to Edge, who powerbombs X-Pac off a leg lariat for two. Christian tries the Tomikaze (aka Unprettier, aka Killswitch, aka the lamest finisher to get multiple names ever)  on Road Dogg to reverse a pumphandle slam, but Tori (Not to be confused with Torrie.) gets involved and distracts the ref. X-Pac hits her by mistake, but recovers enough to X-Factor Edge while the ref argues with Dogg and Tori on the outside. Christian sneaks in, blasts X-Pac with the ringbell, and covers for the pin to retain at 9:21. Welcome back, X-Pac, enjoy the J-O-B. *** X-Pac adds the manly bladejob to reinforce the shot. Right booking there, even if the Edge & Christian heel turn is STILL in limbo.  (Yeah, not for long.) – WWF Lightheavyweight title: Dean Malenko v. Scotty 2 Hotty. Now, is it “2”, “II” or “Too”, because I’ve seen it all three ways recently. (I believe the official designation was “2”) New belt for Deano, which is pretty cool. The black leather looks way cooler than the red. Slugfest to start. Scott hits a backdrop for two, and reverses a piledriver for two. Suplex reversal goes Scotty’s way, but he showboats and gets killed. He tries the bulldog, but Dean rips his head off. Scotty bails and Dean rams him into the post for good measure. No blood is evident, sadly. Back in, Dean dropkicks the knee and works it like the MOFO he is. Dean is the MAN. Two shots around the post follow. Scotty tries to counter with an enzuigiri, but Dean calmly ducks it and slaps on a leglock. He hits a kneebreaker, but Scott gets the enzuigiri this time. Scotty tries a comeback, but a whip to the corner kills that dead. Dean’s lining up of the shots of the knee with surgical precision is a joy to watch and pretty funny in the way he mocks him at the same time. Who said he couldn’t get over in the WWF on wrestling alone? (Many people, although it left him well-suited for a successful career as an agent and trainer later on.)  Spinning toehold is countered for two. Both guys hit the floor and Scotty mounts the comeback. Back in, Scotty goes up but gets superplexed off. Double-KO, and Scotty is up first with a backslide for two. Cloverleaf is countered with a cradle for two. Powerbomb attempt is countered with a bulldog, and the Worm follows. Match loses ½* because Scotty hops ON THE INJURED KNEE. Dean kicks out and gets the rope-assisted two-count, but the ref sees it and breaks it up. Reversal sequence leads to a Ligerbomb for two from Malenko. Blind charges misses, but Dean gets a powerslam for two. Scotty dumps Dean, who recovers and goes upstairs, but Scott tries a superplex, which is reversed, in MID-AIR, into a DDT OFF THE TOP! HOLY SHIT! Scotty is DEAD, DOA, toe-tagged, six feet under, and the pin is academic at 12:58. That finisher gets the ½* back. ****  (One of the great, underrated undercard matches they just kind of threw in around this time, which shows why the Radicalz were such a giant blow to WCW when they left.)  – Bull Buchanan & Big Bossman v. The Acolytes. Punchy kicky stuff for the first few minutes that I can’t be bothered with. The APA may be over, but keep ‘em out of the ring. Faarooq plays Seminole-in-peril as nothing of note happens. Hot tag to Bradshaw, usual brawl follows. Bradshaw goes up but gets superplexed for two. Clothesline from Hell kills Bull, but Bossman bops him with his trusty nightstick, and a scissor kick from the top finishes it for the Bossmen. Bleh. *  (Bull Buchanan was a rarity in WWE, actually, in that he was the big bodyguard paired with the smaller comedy guy later on who did not in fact end up getting the bigger push out of the deal, and in fact was fired when the act was just getting hot.  Of course, the smaller comedy guy ended up doing OK for himself as a solo act anyway.)  – Hardcore title: Crash Holly v. Hardcore Holly v. Jeff Hardy v. Matt Hardy v. Tazz v. Saturn. Everyone takes turns getting two-counts on Crash, as the only way the match ends is by pinning him. Or him pinning someone else. We go running to the back right away, where Crash and Matt climb up one of the giant meat hooks that’s swinging at the entranceway. Matt kicks Crash onto the rest of the boys, then dives off onto them himself, drawing a “holy shit” chant. Camera misses it, for some reason. Jeff swings off the hook with a rana on Saturn. Back in, the Hardyz double-team Crash, then Tazz. Hardcore smacks people at random with a 2×4, because he’s hardcore. Saturn steals it and utilizes it. More weapons get involved. A roadsign to the head gives Hardcore a two-count on Crash. Back out, Crash gets creamed. Tazz and Saturn double-team him on the outside for a bit, then back in. Match drags a bit here. Tazz goes nuts with the roadsign to liven it up again as everyone keeps beating on poor Crash. A moonsault from Jeff and one from Saturn get a two-count. We end up with the Hollies alone in the ring, and Hollycaust on a chair gets two. The Hardyz bring a ladder in, to a big pop, and clean house with it. Jeff heads up and hits the swanton from the top, but Matt breaks up the pin. They fight over the pinfall, and Tazz sneaks in and hooks the Tazzmission, and THAT looks to be it. Saturn breaks THAT up with a wicked shot to Tazz, and everyone ends up outside the ring except for Tazz and Crash, and with Tazz still out, Crash is able to roll over and get the pin to retain at 12:18. That was quite the ending. ***1/4  (This was of course the usual hardcore mess, although it’s interesting that it was moving away from the household objects and fresh fruit of the Vince Russo era and into a slightly more realistic style here.)  – The Big Show v. Kurt Angle. As if Angle’s pre-match ranking out of Marion Barry wasn’t funny enough, Big Show one-ups him to infinity by becoming…the Showster! Complete with “Real American” music, skullcap, bad yellow tights and boots, and a dyed moustache. He runs through the pre-match promo, using “dude” about 14 times, and we are LITERALLY laughing so hard TEARS are running down our faces. (Remember when impersonating Hogan used to be edgy and funny?)  Kinda puts “Oklahoma” in perspective, doesn’t it? Angle attacks, and Show hulks up right away, sending us in howls of laughter until we’re all nearly rolling on the floor laughing for real. Big boot and legdrop only get two (what a shock) and the crowd is dying. In a good way. (Wouldn’t be so funny 2 years later when the real deal came back and everyone went crazy for the same old shit until he got the belt again.)  Angle works on the leg, so the crowd chants “Hogan” to show that they’re in on the joke and Show makes the comeback, hitting the chokeslam for the pin at 2:36. Match was a DUD, but for sheer entertainment this was, seriously, the funniest thing I’ve seen in a good five years. Sure, Angle jobbed, but people will be talking about this match for YEARS. (It’s true, people still remember this match 12 years later.)  – T&A v. The Dudley Boyz. From funny to “let’s get this over with”. Brawl to start, as Buh Buh chases Trish around the ring and gets clocked by Test. Into the ring, where the Dudleys work Albert. Three elbowdrops get two. D-Von comes in and T&A takes over with some energetic double-teams for a while. False tag for Buh-Buh. If this were 1987, Gorilla would be calling for another referee right about now. D-Von gets a fluke sunset flip for two, but Albert follows with a powerbomb for two. Crowd chants “we want tables”, and honestly I prefer that to “we want puppies”, because at least the WWF can deliver the first one. Hot tag Buh Buh, and they double neckbreaker (IT’S NOT 3D, JR!) get two. T&A misses the powerbomb-elbowdrop finisher, but Trish distracts Buh Buh in the middle of 3D. Big boot from Test finishes at 11:08. Match was passable. *1/4 Trish gets caught by Buh Buh and D-Von sets up the table. Trish tries the greco-roman liplock, but Buh Buh finally acts like a MAN and shakes it off, then delivers the powerbomb through the table that everyone was waiting for. Now hopefully that ends this insipid feud.  (There was quite the oddball psychology at play with the Dudleyz during this period, with the weird table fetish that kind of sexualized putting women through them as a stand-in for rape.  It’s like Russo was all about teasing sex, whereas Vince McMahon was about teasing violence, and as I noted here, violence was the thing that they could deliver so there was no real harm in playing it up like that.  Whereas with the puppies, it was endless teases of a payoff you were never going to get.  That’s interesting to me for some reason.)  – European title match: Eddie Guerrero v. Essa Rios. Eddie, my hero, drives his ’57 Chevy to the ring and proceeds to wrestle in his tuxedo. Well, he loses the shirt and jacket, but KEEPS THE BOWTIE, which is just unspeakably hip for reasons lost on me at the moment. (This of course was the point where Eddie, who had been entirely focused on ringwork and not personality, finally broke through and connected with the fans as a character.  And once again, it was a few months after WCW let him walk away.)  Quick reversal sequence to start. Eddie drops Rios on his head with a backdrop suplex and works the arm. Essa comes back but messes up the bouncy-bouncy armdrag sequence. And this is the important part: He DOESN’T repeat the spot. THANK YOU! Finally someone listens to me. Eddy nails the plancha and sends him to the steps. Back in, and the slingshot senton follows. Essa bails and Chyna kicks his ass. Back in, Eddie controls, but Essa comes back with a monkey flip which nearly causes Eddie to land on his head. Eddie dumps him and Chyna bitchslaps him again. Eddie follows with a plancha, and takes a while setting up a powerbomb on the floor. Lita climbs the ropes to attack, but Chyna pushes her off and into the table. (Can you fathom a time when Lita was stuck with a midcard loser like Essa Rios?  She definitely fucked her way up the corporate ladder.  Rios –> Matt Hardy –> Edge proved to be the smartest series of moves she could have made.)  Essa follows with a quebrada on Guerrero, slamming into the American table on the way down. Ouch. Eddie comes in but hits the floor again on the other side, and Rios follows with the INSANE cross-corner tope con hilo. Back in, and Chyna crotches Rios on the top rope, and Eddie superplexes him. He goes up for the frog splash, but Essa pops up and armdrags him back down. Moonsault hits nothing but knees, and Eddie finishes the challenger with his modified Gory special – the spinning neckbreaker drop – at 8:41. Started sloppy but got mondo cool. ***1/2 Lita rips Chyna’s prom dress off out of spite. Growl. (Chyna was of course in that special zone at this point right before Playboy where she was hot from the surgery and not yet exposed as being the total batshit crazy trainwreck psychopath that she became after quitting in 2001.)  – WWF Intercontinental title: Chris Benoit v. Chris Jericho. Let the Canadian violence commence! (Man, that phrase has lost all meaning to me now.)   Slapfest to start. Pinfall reversal sequence and then they KILL each other with chops. That’s the #1 pastime up here, you know – chopping. (Well, that and finding more and more obscure ways to change “ck” to “que” in everyday spelling just to fuque with visiting Americans.)  Benoit gets two of the triple suplex, but Jericho bails and Benoit follows with a MANLY tope suicida that sees him missing and landing on his head. (And we wonder why he ended up with brain damage.)  Stairs get dropkicked into Jericho’s crotch, however, just so he doesn’t feel like Benoit has to shoulder all the pain and suffering. Back in, Benoit beats him up and hits a gutbuster. Jericho misses a dropkick and Benoit catapults him into the turnbuckles and drops him on the top rope. Snap suplex gets two. Into the abdominal stretch, which Lawler mocks, so Benoit starts slamming right hands into Jericho’s side to actually make it look painful. GOD BLESS CANADA! (That shit would HURT.  I wish more people would do rabbit punches to the ribs and kidneys while delivering an abdominal stretch.)  Jericho breaks and hits the Lionsault, but can’t capitalize. It eventually gets two. Benoit delivers more chops, but Jericho hits the leg lariat off a blind charge. Bulldog gets two. Rollup gets two. Jericho blocks a suplex, but misses the springboard dropkick – and this is the great part – and Benoit acts as if HE MEANT IT TO HAPPEN THAT WAY. Benoit goes upstairs and gets crotched, and Jericho hits a backdrop superplex, but takes the worst of it. Benoit backslide is reversed to the double powerbomb, which gets a two count. Benoit slickly hooks the Crossface off the pinning attempt, however, and holds on for a LONG time, nearly breaking Jericho’s head off, until Jericho makes the ropes. Second try is reversed to the Liontamer by Jericho, and now Benoit makes the ropes. Ref gets bumped on a flying forearm, and Benoit grabs the belt and blasts Jericho. It gets two. Snap suplex on the belt sets up the headbutt, but Jericho holds the belt in the air and Benoit hits that…drawing the DQ at 15:04? Fuck! (Fuque!) Crowd boos the hell out of that finish, rightfully so. Even JR admits that “the decision sucked”.  (Or “suqued” if you’re from Canada) Jericho snaps and puts the ref in the Liontamer. Great match with a bad ending. ****  (Notice the trend of re-energized WCW exiles having great matches here?  Although Jericho and Benoit of course had crazy good chemistry together, like transcendent and incapable of having a bad match together chemistry.  They actually headlined the greatest WWF house show I ever attended, which was in 2000 not coincidentally, doing a home-and-home series in Edmonton and then Calgary.  In Edmonton, Benoit played the babyface and Jericho the heel and they had an effortless **** match with Benoit going over, and then went to Calgary and had a totally different match, with Benoit now the heel and Jericho the babyface, and it was apparently great as well.) WWF title match: HHH v. The Rock. Vince comes out and notes that Steve Austin will NOT be here tonight, no sirree. Big staredown to start. Slugfest goes HHH’s way, but Rock gets a quick elbow. Pedigree reversed and Rock stomps a mudhole. Shane pulls him off. HHH hits a neckbreaker during the interference. Brawl outside and Rock eats table. Vince sends him to the ringpost and tosses him back in for two. High knee gets a fast two. High suplex and kneedrop gets two, three times. Into the chinlock. Shane ignores the feet in the ropes, thus giving it a purpose. Rock fights out and gets clotheslined down for two. HHH pummels him in the corner, but Rock drops him on the top turnbuckle. Vince KO’s him with the title for two. Rock comes back and tosses HHH. Brawl outside, where HHH hurts his shoulder. Back in, Rock gets a DDT, but Shane won’t count, so Rock decks him. Back outside, Rock hits the stairs, and HHH goes for the Pedigree on the Spanish table. Rock reverses, however, and grabs BOTH HHH and Shane and delivers a double Rock Bottom through the table! That had to be seen to be believed. Back in, Vince attacks Rock, and Rock goes after him, only to get low-blowed from behind by HHH and Pedigreed. Shane is still dead, however, so no ref. Brisco and Patterson run out in ref gear and a big beatdown follows. Vince hits a wicked chairshot on Rock, and HHH goes for the final Pedigree…and THE GLASS BREAKS. The crowd goes INSANE as Austin (beer gut and all) uses a chair to destroy anything that moves. (I am of course not doing the crowd reaction here justice.  The arena came UNGLUED as Austin kicked everyone’s ass, and even watching at home 12 years later it still sends chills down your spine to see how perfectly booked and executed this whole deal was.)  Everyone is out cold except for Rock, and Linda leads Earl Hebner out, shoving Stephanie aside on her way. Back in, and Rock hits the spinebuster and academic People’s Elbow on HHH as Hebner comes in to count the pin at 19:22, and FINALLY it’s Game Over as the Rock is the 4-time WWF champion. ****1/2 (See, this was the one time where HHH’s usual theory about “I should go over everyone so that it’ll mean more when someone beats me” actually paid off the way it was supposed to.  He just got more and more heat through the early part of 2000 and Rock got more and more sympathy from the fans and you just wanted to see Rock kick the shit out of him and give HHH what was coming to him.  Test, meanwhile, was like “Oh yeah, you stole my fiancé and drugged and raped her in Vegas, whatevs.” and that’s why he wasn’t the Rock.)   Austin celebrates by towing the DX Express remains to the ring and sharing some cold ones with the Rock. The Bottom Line: Wrestling? On a wrestling show? But…but…Vince Russo said that it doesn’t matter! How can such a contradiction exist? At any rate, if there’s been a better PPV from any company within the past year, it’s news to me, because this one blew them all away in terms of wrestling, entertainment and sheer markout value. Everyone goes home happy and only one real clunker drags it down. Now THAT’S a PPV. Big, big thumbs up.  (Agreed, this was I think inarguably the best PPV of 2000, which is pretty high praise, but this would not have felt out of place as a Wrestlemania in a lot of ways.  The Rock-HHH main event is still one of my all time favorite matches for sheer entertainment value and marking the pinnacle of their feud, not to mention the financial highpoint for the company.  This was the time when they made a SHITLOAD of money, and it was well deserved.) 

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 1999

The Netcop Rant for WWF Backlash. As a guide, I’m watching this on tape instead of live, and sober instead of drunk. I know there are those of you who like to keep track of these things when reviewing my reviews… (This was another one where it’s crying out for a redo but my original tape was in such crappy condition that it wasn’t worth transferring over, being that it was a 2nd generation dub from a PPV descrambled with a black box…not exactly DVD quality stuff to begin with.  It used to be a pretty big chore to to rip off PPV and at least now you don’t have to have special equipment imported from Mexico or stupid shit like that, should you want to indulge in that sort of behavior, hypothetically speaking.)  Live from Providence, Rhode Island. Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Opening match: The Brood v. The Acolytes & Mideon. Christian and Mideon have a bizarre staredown to start. Crowd seems less than enthused by this one. Brood tries to double-team Bradshaw, but he no-sells. Christian ends up playing Ricky Morton as the match drags on. Hot ending as the Brood runs through their stuff on Bradshaw, with Christian getting a two count off a swinging DDT, but the 10 punch count gets reversed into a NASTY powerbomb for two. Christian and Edge do a double-team pescado on Faarooq outside the ring, but Viscera waddles down and squishes Christian, allowing Bradshaw to clothesline his head off for the pin. Didn’t see all of it due to getting dinner, but it seemed **-ish. (Now there’s a professional rating system.)  Hardcore title: Bob Holly v. Al Snow. Pretty standard hardcore match, with the in-ring sequence lasting a couple of minutes (and an Al Snow bladejob) before they fight to the parking lot and hit each other on trucks and the dumpster. Hey, garbage wrestling. (Like you’re better than me or something.  You all would have done THE SAME THING.)  Cute spot as they fight into the audio truck, and Holly takes a fall onto a waiting car. Snow finds some conveniently placed frying pans and uses them for a two count as we head back to the ring. Snow puts Holly on the TABLE OF DEATH, but gets clocked with a frying pan. Holly superplexes him onto the table. Nice spot. They lay around for a while, and Snow manages to grab the Head and whack Holly with it for the pin. Man, that thing must have a brick molded into it or something. I think I need a new rating system for garbage matches – the star system doesn’t seem to work well anymore. At any rate, this was subpar crap (as opposed to the entertaining variety) so we’ll go ** (1999 felt like a neverending blur of Hardcore Holly and Al Snow hitting each other with produce and household appliances.)  Intercontinental title match: The Godfather v. Goldust. Meanie debuts his Sable-riffing bit on PPV. (Word of explanation for those of you not fortunate enough to be around during the glory days of Mrs. Brock Lesnar:  They got it into their heads that Sable needed to get into the pre-match catchphrase business, so they came up with something about “the men who came to see me and the women who want to be me” while doing a bad stripper impression, and it never really got over.  Now picture the Blue Meanie doing the same routine.  There you go.)  Godfather comes out alone, drawing boos. So he brings out five hos and gets the face pop. Boring but not terrible match, until Goldust does the powder routine from the house show circuit, where he gets powder in the face and delivers the Shattered Dreams to Meanie. Godfather uses the Ho Train and Pimp Drop to finish it. Eh. Been there, done that. * #1 Contender’s match: The New Age Outlaws v. Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart. May I just say about Debra’s outfit: Hominahominahomina. Is she just saving these “bikini and jacket outfits” for PPV or something? Jarrett gets major heel heat by covering up Debra. The bad thing about going to a house show just before a PPV is that the guys basically just run through the same match. Crowd gets an enthusiastic “Show Your Puppies” chant going for Debra. (Now the kids in the audience would be like “Ew, girls, yucky-pants.”) The heels can’t get anything going until a pier-six situation allows Owen to hit an enzuigiri and get the advantage on Road Dogg. JR posits that the crowd are dog-lovers. Owen and Jarrett do the old-school “distract the ref and beat on the face” bit to good heat a few times. Crowd keeps chanting for the puppies. You know, one of these days Vince HAS to let us see them. (He never did.)  Ross to Lawler: “Do you have a breast fetish?” Gunn gets the hot tag and we do simultaneous 10 punch counts. RD tries to solicit Debra’s attention, and then hits a pumphandle slam for two. More brawling, and Owen gets the Sharpshooter on Jammes, but Gunn hits the Rocker Dropper on Owen while in the hold and gets the pin. Good ending. *** (And that’s Owen Hart’s last match on PPV.)  Shane runs down his father, then Vince and Stephanie retort. Boiler Room Brawl: Paul Wight v. Mankind. (I guess he wasn’t quite Big Show yet.)  Winner escapes the boiler room first. I assume this is pre-taped. Mick breaks a few sheets of drywall over Wight’s head, so Wight stuffs him in a shopping cart and rams him into some stuff. Some candy glass gets broken and both guys blade. Mick is absolutely bumping for six here. Mick cracks open a valve and Wight gets steam in the face. Mick dumps a pile of pipes on Wight and crawls out the door, leaving a literal trail of blood. (Today you don’t even get blood in a Cell match at Wrestlemania between two of the biggest stars in the business.  Back then you get Foley slicing himself open for a nothing pre-taped midcard match.  And by the way, Big Show had only debuted, what, a month and a half before this?  And he’s ALREADY doing jobs for MANKIND?  No wonder he didn’t get over like a megastar.)  Bossman and Test attack and get chased off by Wight. Can’t really rate it – it was just brawling. (Lame!  Suck it up and give it a rating, wuss.)  It was okay. HHH v. X-Pac. Chyna is wearing the LOD Memorial Bra, complete with steel studs. HHH has new music, too, generic rock stuff. (Now, would that be the awesome “My Time” theme, I wonder, or just a random Jim Johnston composition that was in there until it got written for him?  Because I’m thinking he didn’t debut that song until after the “I am the Game” interviews started, but I could be wrong.  And in fact, I went to YouTube after writing that and looked up the match, and indeed “generic rock stuff” is about the best description of it; it’s just some random theme that I don’t even remember.)  HHH hammers on X-Pac in the early going, and dumps him over the top rope in a good bump from X-Pac. He gets the advantage back in the ring and goes for the Broncobuster, but Chyna distracts him long enough to miss the move. The announcers sell a neck injury for X-Pac as HHH wallops him. Man, HHH hasn’t used the knee yet. And he’s being quite the dick here, working the neck. You know the biggest tragedy about HHH’s heel turn? He’s let his hair go to shit. He used to be a lousy wrestler who at least had good hair, but now he doesn’t even have the hair. (The hair made a bit of a comeback, but it never reached the glory days of D-X again.)  Good psychology here from HHH, as Ross gets so concerned about X-Pac’s continued well-being that he offers to ring the bell and stop it himself. That’s why Ross is 10x better than Michael Cole. X-Pac makes the comeback with the heel kicks and a swinging DDT. Chyna distracts the ref, but it backfires as it allows X-Pac a low blow. They end up on the floor and HHH hits the steps. Ref gets bumped on the floor on a baseball slide. CUE THE OVERBOOKING! X-Pac gets the Carpetmuncher, (See?  I’ve been using that joke for at least 13 years.) but Chyna lowblows him and hits an inverted DDT. Nice one, too. Lights out, here comes Kane. JR gets to say “hellfire and brimstone”. Chokeslam for Hunter. Chokeslam for Chyna. JR approves. Kane sets up Chyna and HHH in a corner each, allowing X-Pac to hit the Broncobuster on HHH to a big pop, and on Chyna to a bigger one. It’s all for naught, however, as the second Broncobuster allows HHH to deck him from behind and hit the Pedigree for the pin. He had to win folks, because he’s going Main Eventer pretty soon. (Now there’s the understatement of the decade.)  Best HHH match in a while. **** (I actually watched the match on YouTube while I had it loaded up, and it was indeed a spectacular match.  I would actually stand by that rating.)  Ken Shamrock v. The Undertaker. I really hate that new mix for the Undertaker’s music. The one on WWF the Music 3 is the best. And the new outfit screams “S&M fetishist”. (Don’t tell Curtis Hughes.)  Undertaker controls early, but Shamrock gets an opening and kicks away to the leg of UT. UT comes back, but Shamrock gets going to the leg. This is, again, just like the house show match from last week. This is an interesting attempt to elevate Ken to the next level, I’ll give the angle that. Crowd loses patience with this one fast. These guys are just not compatible workers. Shamrock gets the Fujiwara armbar and the crowd breaks into a big “boring” chant. Without Bret and Shawn to carry him, it’s becoming apparent that Undertaker has outlived his usefulness as a wrestler. (Not quite the hatred of 2000 Undertaker, but I was getting pretty tired of him at this point.) He has the unmitigated gall to work in a bow-and-arrow. When has UT EVER used that move? Nice move as UT legdrops Shamrock and Ken grabs the leg and rolls into a submission move. UT reverses to a half-crab. Undertaker: Submission fighter? (I also do lottery numbers, thanks for asking.)  UT is selling the leg injury well. Bad looking pin as UT has a clear pin after a big foot but Ken forgets to lift his shoulder at two. Hebner stops anyway. Ken hits the rana and anklelock, but UT kicks out quickly. UT tries the tombstone, but Ken gets the anklelock again. Bradshaw comes down with a baseball bat, but Ken knocks him off and hooks an armbar. Now Bearer is up on the apron, which is enough for UT to get a cheap win with the tombstone. UT got seriously devalued here. **  (He’ll be OK.)  Bradshaw delivers a Texas ass-whooping for fun. Crowd has no reaction to any of it. (Shamrock was on the way out anyway at that point.)  WWF World title match: Steve Austin v. The Rock. Shane is of course the guest ref. On Heat, it was announced that this is No Holds Barred and if Austin touches Shane, he’s DQ’d and the Rock wins the title. Quite the face pop for the Rock. We do a couple of minutes of wrestling and then the brawl starts, as they head to the entranceway. Austin gets put through the fence set up by the entrance. Austin reciprocates on the Rock in kind, then drops a metal case on his head for good measure. Rock get tossed through a pile of railings and Austin clotheslines him off a pile of cases. See, Herb, Rock is taking bumps. (Old school RSPWers may remember that Herb Kunze HATED The Rock.  Herb was a great guy but he totally missed the boat on Rock’s potential as a worker.) Austin batters the Rock some more and drags him to the ring. Rock takes a MAN-SIZED bump, charging Austin but flying over the top. On cue, the Spanish table gets destroyed by the Rock Bottom. Shane stops Austin from using a chair, and Rock tosses him over the railing. Rock puts Austin onto the announce table and steals a camera and does some camerawork, shooting the crowd. Then, in a spectacular visual, he turns around to see Austin giving him the double-bird and Stunner on the table. That was just a magnificent bit. Back in the ring and Austin goes for the Stunner, but Rock pushes him into Shane. Rock hits Rock Bottom and gets two (with help from Shane). That didn’t work, so Shane grabs the WWF title and charges, but hits Rock by mistake. Shane refuses to count and runs. Except of course, that Vince is here with Earl Hebner and the Stone Cold belt. Vince wallops Shane with the belt, and Rock hits Austin with the other belt and gets a two count from Hebner. Austin is up with the Stunner, and he hits Rock with the title for good measure and gets the pin. Another great Rock-Austin brawl. **** Vince tosses the skull belt to Austin and walks off. End of…oh, wait. In the back, Stephanie gets kidnapped by Undertaker: Limo Driver for Hire. That’s not gonna lead to anything good, I can just bet. (SAY IT WITH ME!  YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!  And yeah, to say that it didn’t lead to anything good is also the understatement of the decade considering what the endgame was.  Two words:  Higher Power.)  Back to the ring as Austin downs some frosty beverages (sources say it’s actually Sprite, not beer), end of show. The Bottom Line: Well, I was expecting nothing coming in, and although it delivered two **** matches and nothing in the way of total crap, it didn’t really leave me feeling terribly excited one way or another. So thumbs in the middle this time out.  (No way, man, the Rock-Austin bit with the Smoking Skull belt is classic and it’s a great underrated brawl between them, plus the HHH v. X-Pac match is great and UNDERTAKER KIDNAPS STEPHANIE and nothing’s really bad on this show.  Easy-ass thumbs up.)