Monday Night Raw – December 30, 2002

Monday Night Raw
Date: December 30, 2002
Hosts: Terri, Jonathan Coachman, Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s the final show of the year and that means…..a Best Of show. I’m not entirely sure how many great things there were on Raw in 2002 but thankfully we’re getting a Best Of WWE show, meaning we’ll be seeing Smackdown and pay per view matches as well. That offers a few more possibilities so let’s get to it.

Opening sequence, with a mix of Beautiful People and Across the Nation. I’ve heard worse.

Terri and Coach welcome us to the show and run down some of the stuff we’ll be seeing later.

Before we get into this, two quick notes: they’re showing clipped versions here but I’ll be posting the full versions. I’m also going to be skipping the quick introductions from the hosts and the recaps, which don’t really add anything.

From Smackdown, September 26.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Edge

No DQ. Eddie starts hammering away until a monkey flip puts him down. The fans are all over Eddie as he easily breaks up a keylock. An elbow to the head drops Edge and Eddie hits some rather hard right hands. We hit a chinlock for a bit before Edge snaps off a powerslam, only to take too long getting to the top.

That means a huge superplex to give Eddie two and it’s time to head outside. Unfortunately it’s also time for a ladder and that means a ref bump as the ladder goes straight into his face (looked great actually). Back in and Eddie unloads on him with a chair but misses the frog splash to put both guys down.

We come back from a break with a new referee and the second only now being taken to the back. That’s really not a good response time. Edge gets in the half nelson faceplant but takes too much time going up, allowing Eddie to snap off a hurricanrana for a close two. A springboard hurricanrana is countered into a sitout powerbomb with Eddie’s head bouncing off the mat in a scary visual.

The ladder is brought in but it’s also knocked into Edge’s face to drop the Canadian again. That means Eddie needs a second ladder so he can sandwich Edge together, setting up the slingshot hilo. Guerrero gets one heck of a cheer from the crowd and it’s really hard to blame him with how hard they’re beating each other up out there.

Eddie goes up the ladder but Edge is there to slug it out… Eddie sunset powerbombs him off with one of the biggest bumps you’ll see on regular TV. Edge just got folded up and it looked awesome. That’s good for another respectful round of applause and somehow only two. In almost any other match, that should have been the fall.

Back up again and Edge backdrops him into the ladder in the corner before they climb the second ladder a second time. You know, because it ended so well earlier. This time Edge rams him face first into the top a few times and grabs an Edgecution off the ladder (looked a bit more like a superplex for the sake of clearing the ladder but the landing still looked great) for the pin and one last big reaction from the crowd.

Rating: A. Sometimes you need a great story with all kinds of intricacies and plot details. Sometimes you need a big climax to a major story. Then sometimes you need two incredibly talented wrestlers doing crazy things to each other involving a ladder. This was spectacular with both guys absolutely destroying each other with one more big spot after another. Nothing was topping that sunset powerbomb though and I think everyone knew it. Edge winning the match (and in theory the feud) is the right call and Eddie didn’t lose a thing here. Aside from the match of course. This is on multiple DVDs and it’s easy to see why.

From Raw, July 1.

WWE World Title: Jeff Hardy vs. Undertaker

Undertaker is defending and it’s a ladder match. JR warns us that this could be the biggest trainwreck in history. Before the match, Jeff jumps onto Undertaker’s motorcycle to start the mind games. The champ goes outside and has a ladder dropkicked into him, followed by a chair shot to the head.

That goes nowhere though as Undertaker clotheslines Jeff’s head off, only to have Jeff send him into the ladder up against the apron. Another ladder shot to the head knocks Jeff into the announcers’ table but Undertaker opts to climb back down and do some more beating. They both wind up inside for I believe the first time with the very slow beating continuing. Jeff slugs away for a bit but is punched right back down to kill the crowd again.

Undertaker puts Jeff inside the ladder for the apron legdrop and the destruction continues. A Whisper in the Wind gets Jeff out of trouble and he uses the ladder as a springboard to take Undertaker down again. It’s time for the big ladder and a horrible looking hurricanrana sends Undertaker outside. Jeff gets a hand on the belt but a chair to the back brings him right back down.

Undertaker loads up the Last Ride but Jeff gets in a weak chair shot to the head. Thankfully Undertaker almost pops back up so Jeff BLASTS him with a much better shot. That’s not really sold either as more chair shots slow Jeff down. A chokeslam off the ladder (chokeshove really) allows Undertaker to pull the title down.

Rating: C-. This is one of those matches that just hasn’t aged well. I remember losing my mind when Jeff hit Undertaker with the chair on the original viewing but this really doesn’t hold up later on. The last few minutes help this but it was a long squash until the ending. We’ve sat through a few weeks of Undertaker destroying the Hardys and now he does it again in Jeff’s signature match before moving on to the Angle match. Not great but watchable enough.

For some reason they don’t show Undertaker’s post match face turn.

From Summerslam.

Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio

Rey showed Angle up recently and Kurt wants to prove that it’s just a fluke. Angle’s singlet looks like a barber pole and Rey sneaks in from behind with a springboard ankle scissors. The ankle lock goes on in less than thirty seconds but Rey sends him into the ropes with Kurt having to duck the 619.

A hard wheelbarrow suplex sends Rey hard onto the mat and one heck of a clothesline gives Angle two. Rey’s back is bent around the middle rope and Angle is getting a bit too cocky. A one legged Liontamer has Mysterio in even more trouble but a rollup gives him a fast two. Rey is certainly sticking around well enough so far.

That just ticks Angle off though and he throws Rey with a belly to belly. Kurt misses a charge though and goes sailing over the top but the referee won’t let Mysterio fly. That’s fine with Rey who flips OVER THE REFEREE to take Kurt down. The fans are losing their mind and Rey Dropping the Dime (springboard legdrop) for two makes them even worse. Now the 619 connects and the West Coast Pop is good for a VERY near fall. Rey puts him on top for a super hurricanrana but Angle slips out and grabs the ankle lock for the submission at 9:20.

Rating: A-. What a match. This is one of the best opening matches in company history as they just do not stop for the better part of ten minutes. It’s an outstanding performance with Rey getting his big breakout performance and Angle showing that he’s still one of the best in the world.

Raw Retro: Raw is Owen.

From Wrestlemania XVIII.

The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan

Make no mistake about it: this is the main event. Hogan is here alone and instantly the biggest face on the roster because Toronto is an old WWF town. Rock is nearly booed out of the building for the second year in a row. They stare each other down and you can feel the energy. The bell rings and we get the big lockup with Hogan shoving him down and posing for a standing ovation. Hogan is only the heel in name only here and everyone knows it.

A shoulder puts Rock down and it’s 1987 all over again as Hogan plays to the crowd. Hogan even calls him a meatball as a callback to Rocky III. Now it’s Rock shoving him down and telling Hulk to just bring it. The Rock Bottom doesn’t work and it’s Hogan punching even more. A clothesline sets up an abdominal stretch on the Rock as they’re keeping it very simple so far with big moves to fit the stadium style.

The fans boo Rock out of the building for some chops in the corner so Hogan comes back with a chokeslam of all things. They head outside with Hogan hitting him in the back with a chair. Back in and we’ve got a ref bump which really isn’t needed here. Rock hooks a Sharpshooter and Hogan makes the ropes, only to tap when Rock drags him back to the middle.

A loud ROCKY SUCKS chant breaks out but Hogan turns it into cheers with a low blow and a Rock Bottom of his own. It’s weightlifting belt time but Rock grabs a DDT, allowing him to do some whipping. The Rock Bottom connects…..and he Hulks Up. Hulk kicks out at two and 68,000 people are suddenly five years old again and Hogan is their hero. It’s as if he apologizes for every bad thing he’s done in just a few seconds and the fans accept him with open arms.

The three punches, the big boot and legdrop (JR: “HE BEAT ANDRE THE GIANT WITH THAT MOVE!”) get two so Hogan loads up another leg but it’s Wrestlemania VI all over again. There’s a second Rock Bottom, followed by a third and Rock nips up. The People’s Elbow puts Hogan away at 16:23.

Rating: B. This is ALL about the crowd as the in ring action was ok at best. The fans carry this to an epic encounter though and the ending was the only option they had. Hogan is the biggest name ever but this isn’t WCW and a guy ten years past his prime doesn’t beat the biggest star in the business at the time. That Hulk Up spot is one for the ages and it was done so perfectly that it’s the part of this show people remember more than anything else. Not a great match but an incredible performance and spectacle.

Post match Hogan gets to his feet and stares Rock down again before weakly extending his hand. Rock shakes it and leaves but here are Hall and Nash to beat Hogan down for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Rock comes back in for the save and it’s posing a go-go. They knew they had something with Hogan here but they had a short time window. He was World Champion in April and lost it a month later, but the idea worked at the time.

From Summerslam.

HHH vs. Shawn Michaels

Anything goes and unsanctioned with Shawn in jeans. Shawn hammers away to start and spears HHH down for more right hands. They’re quickly on the floor with Shawn ramming him head first into the post. It’s time for some toys, including a trashcan to HHH’s head and a top rope right hand for the same.

Sweet Chin Music misses less than three minutes in and Shawn walks into a spinebuster for the first real shot to his bad back. Like a smart villain, HHH starts in on the back but Shawn says bring it, earning himself a kick to the chest. One heck of a chair shot to the back has Shawn’s face in agony, which is where so much of this match’s strength comes from. Michaels could tell such a story with his face and it really does bring you deeper into the story they’re trying to tell.

Shawn gets in a desperation rollup for two but walks into the facebuster to cut him off again. A DDT on the chair gets two and we’ve got some blood. HHH steals Shawn’s belt for a good old fashioned whipping followed by a few buckle shots to the cut head. With Shawn pulling himself to his feet, it’s sledgehammer time. As is his custom though, Shawn cuts HHH off at the exactly right time, earning himself an abdominal stretch.

HHH goes for the hammer again but Earl Hebner calls him off and yells a lot. A superplex is broken up so HHH blasts him in the back with the chair again. There’s a side slam through an open chair and Shawn looks dead. You can feel the fans getting more and more into this and JR wants the referee to do a fast count. Shawn kicks out and now HHH is getting frustrated because Michaels won’t stay down.

Another side slam onto a closed chair gets the same and HHH covers three times in a row. The Pedigree is broken up by a low blow and you can feel the crowd coming back to life. HHH grabs the chair but a desperation superkick knocks it into HHH’s face to draw blood as well. Shawn hits the forearm into the nipup and the fans actually come to their feet as it’s the old Shawn one more time. A great chair shot to the head drops HHH and Shawn picks up the belt to even things up a bit from earlier.

Shawn bulldogs the very bloody HHH onto the steps to knock him even sillier. Since that’s not enough, let’s bring in a ladder too. Said ladder is thrown inside but HHH baseball slides it into Shawn’s ribs for a breather. HHH goes up top for some reason and it’s a superplex to bring him back down for two. Now the steps are brought in but Shawn drop toeholds HHH into them before knocking him outside again.

With nothing else left, here’s a table too with Shawn splashing HHH off the top through the wood. HHH very slowly rolls back in and Shawn brings the ladder inside again. The big elbow off the ladder crushes HHH and Shawn pops right back up. It’s superkick time but HHH counters into the Pedigree which is countered into a jackknife rollup for the pin at 27:19.

Rating: A+. My goodness what a performance. That’s the only way to put it as Shawn basically started all over again and had this kind of an amazing match. This was some outstanding storytelling with Michaels taking us to the very brink but fighting back until there was an actual way to believe he could pull it off. HHH was at his most dastardly here and that makes for one heck of a match. This is one of the best matches of both of their careers and the circumstances make it even more amazing. Shawn timed that comeback as well as anything I’ve ever seen and I got swept up in the match all over again. Just excellent.

Post match, HHH hits a celebrating Shawn in the back with a sledgehammer to go biggest heel ever. Shawn does a stretcher job, seemingly putting him out of action for a long time. Oh and one more thing: for some reason HHH has tried to claim that this match was forty five minutes long. Even if you count the entrances and the post match stuff, it’s less than thirty six minutes total. That’s a big stretch even in wrestling, which is covering a lot of ground.

For some reason they only aired about seven minutes of that one. Everything else has had at least half.

From Backlash.

Kurt Angle vs. Edge

I love those big pieces of metal that swing back and forth to go with the Backlash name. You don’t see that kind of stuff enough anymore. Angle makes the mistake of charging at Edge to start and runs into some right hands. A flapjack sends Kurt outside and he’s rather upset by these circumstances.

Back in and a wicked German suplex sends Edge flying and an overhead belly to belly gets two. It’s already off to the chinlock and things slow down a bit. Edge fights back again and gets in a belly to belly of his own to buy a breather. The yet to be named Edgecution gets two on Angle but Edge takes too long on top, allowing Angle to run the corner for the superplex. That always looks great.

Some rolling Germans give Angle more near falls but Edge gets in something like a release German suplex of his own. A backdrop puts Angle on the floor again (Why is that floor so shiny?) and Edge dives down onto him for a lighter pop than I was expecting. Back in and an Angle Slam sets up a quick ankle lock but Edge rolls through for a near fall. Angle brings in a chair (Why does the referee never even try to stop that?) but walks into an Edge-o-Matic. The spear is blocked by a knee to the face and the Angle Slam gives Kurt the clean pin.

Rating: B. I know he’s run a lot of his legacy into the ground but dang Angle was good back in the day. It’s crazy to think that he had only been in the WWF about two and a half years at this point because he’s been great for so long. Edge is getting a heck of a rub out of this feud and it’s doing a lot to make him into a bigger deal. That’s such an important key to his career: they didn’t go nuts and hot shot Edge because they knew he was going to be something special. Let him season in this role and then move him up when he’s ready.

We see about five minutes of Rock vs. Lesnar.

From Raw, October 7.

Tag Team Titles: Rob Van Dam/Jeff Hardy vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Chris Jericho/Christian vs. Kane/Hurricane

TLC with Kane defending on his own as Hurricane is still down in the back. It’s a huge brawl to start with Jericho throwing in an early ladder as people pair off. Christian and Jericho are easily shoved off said ladder though and everyone else heads outside. Jeff dives off the barricade to take Kane down and it’s Christian and Jericho putting the ladder on the turnbuckle.

Spike goes into the ladder but heel miscommunication puts Christian down. Kane comes back in with the top rope clothesline and chokeslams Bubba for good measure. There’s a ladder up in the ring as Kane throws Spike over the top and onto Van Dam. The Canadians knock Kane to the floor and put him on a table so Jeff can hit a legdrop off a ladder. Christian gets powerbombed off the ladder and we take a break.

Back with Bubba and Jericho slugging it out on top of the ladder as it’s clear that Kane is the only one tall enough to reach the belts at that height. Jericho bulldogs Bubba off the ladder and Christian gives Van Dam a reverse DDT off another one. This match is still all over the place and doesn’t feel like there’s any teamwork or anything other than a bunch of people doing a bunch of spots.

With everyone down, the fans want tables. Christian goes up but gets crotched on the top by Kane, followed by a powerslam to Jeff. Bubba plays Matt for some Poetry in Motion to Kane and there’s the Van Terminator to knock him even sillier. Jeff goes up so Bubba superplexes him right back down and everyone is done. In an interesting note, we see a replay of the superplex and the original commentary is still there. You don’t hear that too often.

Now it’s Jericho going up with Spike shoving the ladder over, sending Jericho out to the floor in a scary looking crash. Christian throws Spike through a table as this just keeps going. The Five Star hits Christian and Jeff misses a Swanton before being backdropped through a table. Kane comes back in and chokeslams Jericho off a ladder before pulling down the titles for the win.

Rating: B-. This was entertaining but WAY too long at over twenty five minutes, the fourth longest of all time and the longest team version ever. Above that though, there was no flow or psychology to the match. With the more famous one, you could tell that the matches were laid out with far more precision, which made for a better match. This one was all over the place with everyone hitting random spots and popping back up for the next one. It’s entertaining but nothing I’ll remember watching in a day or two.

Coach and Terri wrap it up.

Overall Rating: A-. I never know how to rate these things but they had some great stuff and covered almost everything that mattered, save for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Now even ONE MATCH? There was a lot of Summerslam here, which really is best for everyone. It’s a nice way to wrap up 2002, but the fact that they’re moving towards HHH vs. Scott Steiner doesn’t help things.

Overall 2002 was all over the place. The first few months feel like the show is running on fumes, then the Brand Split breathed some life into it for a few weeks, then the shows were horrible over the first half of the summer, then Summerslam was one of the best shows ever, then Raw was horrible and Smackdown was great. The company seems to be searching for a way forward and I really don’t think they’ve found it yet.

As we head into 2003, things are as different as ever. Over on Raw you have the HHH show where he tries to prove that he can carry everything on his back. That’s not exactly thrilling TV but I have a feeling it’s what we’re going to be seeing it for a very long time. If there’s one thing you can count on from HHH, it’s him hammering things into your head until you agree with him.

On the blue side, things are starting to come into focus. It’s clear that they’re building towards Angle vs. Lesnar, which should be one heck of a match. In addition to that you have Los Guerreros, Edge and Benoit getting better every week. As always, Smackdown is the wrestling show and that makes for some very entertaining TV.

The upcoming year shows no signs of changing the pattern of the shows as the same trends could go on for months. Raw will continue to be the storyline heavy show while Smackdown is much more about the in-ring product. If they could find a way to combine those things into one, you could have one heck of a wrestling program. Instead though, we’re likely stuck with one good show and one horrid one. Such is life in WWE, even to this day.

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