This seemed appropriate given what we’re seeing now. Starting tonight, I’ll be putting up alternating reviews from the original Brand Split with Raw going up on Wednesday and Smackdown/pay per views going up on Saturdays. There’s no better place to start than on the original Draft so let’s get to it.
Monday Night Raw
Date: March 25, 2002
Location: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, Pennsylvania
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler
This seemed due for a second look since they’re doing it all again this year. We’re just after Wrestlemania XVIII and things are kind of in a lull. With so many wrestlers and no big evil for the WWF to fight (since the WCW/ECW Invasion just had to be started and wrapped up by Thanksgiving), it was decided to split the rosters in two. This was a really cool idea at the time but it should be interesting to see how it worked when the initial Brand Extension isn’t the most fondly remembered concept. Let’s get to it.
Linda McMahon is in WWF Studios to welcome us to the show, telling us that only twenty picks will be made tonight for the sake of time. The changes won’t officially take place until next week so everyone will be on Smackdown this week. As for tonight though, HHH, Chris Jericho and Stephanie McMahon can’t be drafted because they’re in a triple threat for the World Title (Yes Stephanie was getting a World Title shot and was a major focus fourteen years ago as well.). Steve Austin can’t be drafted either due to a contractual stipulation (read as a real life contract dispute) and is therefore a free agent and can sign wherever he wants.
There are PODIUMS ON THE STAGE! YES I SAID PODIUMS!!!
Tazz vs. Mr. Perfect
Perfect wouldn’t be around much longer due to a certain airplane ride (long and bad story). After promising to be a perfect pick, Perfect dropkicks him at the bell as we’re told that the WWF and Women’s Champion can compete on both shows. An early PerfectPlex gets two as Tazz is next to the ropes. Perfect charges into a boot and the Tazmission finishes quick. I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of strong wrestling tonight.
Tazz says the perfect pick has become just another victim.
Ric Flair (Raw owner) and Arn Anderson are in their war room to go over their draft options.
Vince’s war room is just an office. He has the first pick and a photo of Kurt Angle is visible on his desk.
Here’s Vince for the first pick, which I’m sure will involve a speech. The first pick for Smackdown will be…..the Rock. Well who else was it going to be? Rock leaves the locker room (walking past Undertaker and Hogan who are among the masses in a nice touch) as we see a quick graphic showing his career highlights.
Vince tells Rock that he’s not allowed to put his hands on him or threatening to put his boots in various places or saying IT DOESN’T MATTER ever again. The fans cut him off with a ROCKY chant so Vince says he made both Hogan and the Rock. The boss goes to leave but Rock isn’t quite done yet. To be fair he hasn’t said anything yet so he hasn’t actually started.
Rock wants to go out on Raw with a bang because he won the WWF World Title here, formed the Rock and Sock Connection here and did various things to Vince. We hit some catchphrases before Rock has them do the Penn State chant (WE ARE…..PENN STATE) and then alters it to insult Vince even more. This was just a Rock’s greatest hits stretched over about ten minutes.
Ric comes out and picks Undertaker #1 overall despite hating him.
Kurt Angle comes in to yell at Vince for not picking him first. Vince talks about throwing Flair a swerve out there (By picking the Rock?) when Undertaker comes in to yell. The boss promises to make this right.
Edge/Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian/Booker T.
Two feuds in one here but Edge is about to start a really good feud with Angle. Booker kicks Edge in the face to start and Christian gets two off a powerslam. A quick clothesline drops Christian though as the announcers talk about Austin having a clause in his contract to make sure he’s a free agent. In case of a Brand Split you see. Booker eats the Diamond Cutter but Christian gives him an Unprettier. A quick scissors kick puts Page away in a nothing match.
Angle reads off his resume until Vince makes him the #2 pick.
Ric picks the NWO (Hall/Nash/X-Pac) because that’s something you can do. I can’t wait for that Rock vs. Nash match. The NWO is uh….not in the locker room.
Vince yells at Angle for getting the NWO (who Vince brought in to poison the company) and promises to sign Austin. Angle suggests Chris Benoit (currently out with an injury but coming back soon.) with the next pick so Vince makes him #3. Benoit would return in July and just show up on Raw with no mention of being drafted to Smackdown. If nothing else it’s a good idea to have some of these picks backstage as there’s no reason to have them both come out here every time.
We see both brands’ big boards and JR thinks Flair’s strategy is, uh, strange.
The NWO threatens Ric so he picks Kane to keep an eye on them. Aside from X-Pac, Hall is now the second shortest member of the roster.
Trish Stratus vs. Ivory
Ivory returned last week to start a feud with Trish. They start fast with Ivory hammering away and ducking a middle rope cross body. Trish fights out of a chinlock and grabs the Stratusphere, followed by the Stratusfaction for another nothing match.
Vince picks Hulk Hogan, whose graphic incorrectly lists him as a seven time WCW Champion.
After a break, Ric picks Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam.
Vince is ticked because he wanted the title so Angle suggests giving him an Intercontinental Title shot tonight so he can bring the title to Smackdown. Vince: “That’s why you’re the number two draft pick! Maybe he should have been #1.”
Rock and Hogan have a bro moment where they praise the people. Ignoring the whole attempted murder thing from a few weeks ago, Rock agrees to team up against the NWO in a handicap match.
Vince picks Billy and Chuck as a unit.
The Rock/Hulk Hogan vs. NWO
The NWO powerbombed Rock through a table on Smackdown until Hogan made the save to set this up. Hogan and X-Pac get things going with a big shove sending the smaller one out to the floor. Hall gets pushed down with ease so it’s off to Nash who can actually shove Hulk down.
Hogan cleans house with ease but he takes too long loading up a backdrop and gets kicked in the face. It’s off to X-Pac for more kicks but Hogan knocks him away and makes the tag off to Rock. Things finally speed up and X-Pac is easily knocked to the floor. The Rock Bottom and legdrop get two on Nash with X-Pac making the save. It’s a three on two beatdown until Kane comes out for the DQ.
Rating: F. Were you expecting anything else? It says a lot when the match lasts five minutes and is this boring with a screwy ending. I mean, X-Pac can’t take a fall to the combined forces of Hulk Hogan and the Rock? I could go for an entertaining match at some point tonight but I’m not feeling confident at this point.
The NWO runs off.
Vince accuses Ric of sending Kane out there so Flair takes Booker T. Vince: “Edge!” Ric: “Big Show!” Vince: “Rikishi!”
Jeff Hardy vs. Billy
Lita, Matt, Chuck and Rico are all at ringside. Billy fires off some right hands in the corner to start but misses a charge. The announcers talk about being drafted to different shows as Jeff hits a tornado DDT. The Swanton misses though as Lita completely botches a hurricanrana to Rico (her legs weren’t around his head and he had to flip himself). Jeff grabs a rollup for a fluke pin in another nothing match.
Ric picks Bubba Ray Dudley so he can have “the most dominant tag team in WWF history.” Vince: “Well Ric it looks like you’re trying to get the most dominant tag team in WWF history.” Did Stephanie write this segment? Vince picks D-Von to balance things out.
The Dudleys, realizing their careers are pretty much over for the time being, hug it out.
European Title: William Regal vs. Rikishi
Regal is defending. And never mind as Brock Lesnar runs out and flattens Rikishi with an F5.
Jazz wants to see where the Divas end up.
Vince comes out to pick Brock but Ric says it’s his pick and he’ll select Brock instead. Vince: “Mark Henry!” Ric: “William Regal!” Vince: “Maven!” (Hardcore Champion). Ric: “Lita!” Vince gets on him for choosing a woman and thinks Ric just wants to sleep with her. Well duh.
Here are the picks:
1. The Rock
2. Kurt Angle
3. Chris Benoit
4. Hulk Hogan
5. Billy and Chuck
8. D-Von Dudley
9. Mark Henry
4. Rob Van Dam
5. Booker T.
6. Big Show
7. Bubba Ray Dudley
8. Brock Lesnar
9. William Regal
Intercontinental Title: Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam
Angle is challenging and grabs a German suplex for two as the bell rings. Van Dam gets stomped down as the fans chant USA. I’d assume for Angle, even though Michigan is just as American as Pennsylvania. Van Dam kicks him in the head and gets two off Rolling Thunder. Angle pulls the referee in the way of a top rope kick for the DQ.
Kurt puts on the ankle lock until Edge makes the save.
Stephanie is ready to win the title.
WWF World Title: HHH vs. Chris Jericho vs. Stephanie McMahon
HHH is defending and the challengers have a business relationship. I have no idea why they never had a romantic relationship as that could have been amazing. If HHH pins Stephanie, she’s gone FOREVER. HHH backdrops the real wrestler to start but has to look at Stephanie so Jericho can chop away. Stephanie lays down so Jericho can cover her for two but he has to save her from the Pedigree.
HHH catapults Jericho into Stephanie so we can have the falling low blow spot. Thankfully HHH kicks her to the floor so we can have an actual match for a bit. Of course Stephanie won’t STAY AWAY FROM THE MATCH as she just has to come back in to screech about how Jericho needs to work on the leg. Stephanie gets run over by mistake so she slaps Jericho and demands that he get HHH. Jericho clotheslines her by mistake but gets sent to the floor, allowing HHH to tease another Pedigree. Naturally that can’t happen because the fans love waiting on her getting her comeuppance instead of actually getting it.
Jericho grabs the belts (this was when there was no Undisputed Title belt yet) for a double knockout, meaning Stephanie can cover both of them. The Walls have HHH in trouble but Stephanie breaks them up by jumping on Jericho’s back. A Pedigree gets rid of Jericho but THERE SHE IS AGAIN. HHH has finally had enough and hits a spinebuster (because we can’t hurt her perfect face) to retain.
Rating: D-. They couldn’t even do a good match (which these two are certainly capable of having) because that wasn’t the point here. Yeah a Wrestlemania main event rematch for the title eight days later wasn’t the focus. Instead, as I’m sure you can tell, this was ALL about Stephanie and there was no hiding it. Of course her being gone “forever” lasted less than four months as she was brought back as the completely face GM of Smackdown because she’s just so darn loveable that we can forgive this along with the whole Alliance thing last year.
Here’s the thing: what exactly did Stephanie add to this? Why couldn’t this have just been HHH vs. Jericho with Stephanie leaving if Jericho lost? It’s actually a good match, Jericho is fine with losing a fall to the champ and the guys don’t have to keep stopping so often so she can catch up. Horrible match of course and completely not HHH and Jericho’s fault, but since it can’t be Stephanie’s fault either (as nothing ever can be), we’ll blame….uh….oh yeah the referee. HE RUINED IT!
Stephanie of course freaks out and tries to hang on to anything she can before security takes her away. HHH sings the Goodbye Song to end the show. This was a special bonus in case you didn’t get that you were watching Monday Night Stephanie.
Overall Rating: F. Oh sweet goodness what a mess. First of all, the match of the night was……uhhh…..you know what it was actually Mr. Perfect against Tazz in a match lasting 1:53. That’s not to say it was good but it didn’t have a major botch, a stupid ending or the powers of Stephanie holding it back.
Other than that though, this was a complete disaster with Smackdown being stacked, Raw basically begging Austin to come back and save the thing and the “wrestling” being little more than background noise. This was somehow worse than I remembered it, which is covering quite a bit of ground as I remember this show being horrible the last time I watched it.
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