Vengeance 2003

Vengeance 2003
Date: July 27, 2003
Location: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Attendance: 9,500
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

This is the first ever Smackdown exclusive pay per view and for once I’m actually looking forward to it. They’ve done a much better job than usual of setting things up and there are multiple matches that could do quite well. The main event is Big Show vs. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for Brock’s Smackdown World Title, but there’s also some major focus on Vince McMahon vs. Zach Gowen for reasons of testing my patience. Let’s get to it.

We open with people talking about working their whole lives to get here. Big names too, like Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, and Stephanie McMahon. Vince then narrates a video, ranting about how this is his company and no one is going to get the better of him. I’d rather hear more about how hard Stephanie had it as a kid and how much she had to fight through to get here.

US Title: Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit

Tournament final to crown the inaugural champion. The referee actually brings them to the middle and explains the rules, which is about as rare of a sight today as Stephanie not running her mouth. Benoit’s eyes seem to be fine after the whole attempt at blinding him a few days ago. Eddie hides in the corner to start until Benoit hits a heck of a shoulder, sending Eddie bailing to the floor.

Back in and Benoit starts in on the arm before winning a test of strength. Eddie slips out and spins around Benoit into a legsweep so smooth that I could barely tell what he did. A pinfall reversal sequence gets some near falls on Benoit, sending him outside for a bit of swearing. Back in and Eddie headlocks him down but gets caught in a shoulder breaker. Benoit still can’t get the Crossface as Eddie gets to the ropes just in time.

Eddie bails to the floor but Benoit is right there with a dive to put both guys down. Back in and Eddie gets caught in a half nelson of all things (leave it to Benoit to make something like that look painful) before going with a hard chop instead. Eddie is right back up with a hurricanrana out of the corner to take over again. The announcers talk about some technical difficulty but it’s been cleaned up on the Network version.

We hit an armbar on Benoit before Eddie pokes him in the eye, which Cole calls a slap. Benoit’s eyes are fine enough to take Eddie up top for a belly to back superplex. The rolling German suplexes set up the Crossface but Eddie gets a boot onto the ropes. Eddie is right back up with Three Amigos, followed by a top rope superplex to put both guys down again. The frog splash only kind of misses as Eddie’s arm hits Benoit as he rolls away, meaning both guys are down again.

One heck of a powerbomb gives Benoit two and now the Crossface goes on again but Eddie is right next to the ropes for a third time. The ref gets bumped though and it’s time to bring in the belt. A belt shot sets up the frog splash for a delayed two, giving us a great stunned face from Eddie. With the referee still down, Eddie brings in the belt again…and hits the referee in the back.

Eddie throws the belt onto Benoit and lays down. Now, this might be a fine idea in theory but considering an errant forearm put the referee down for about two minutes, we could be waiting until the Rumble for him to get up again. Benoit pops up and grabs the Crossface to make Eddie tap but of course there’s no one to see it. A German suplex drops Eddie and Benoit tries the Swan Dive, only to have Eddie pull the referee in the way. Cue Rhyno to Gore Benoit in the big screwjob, allowing Eddie to hit the frog splash for the pin and the title.

Rating: B+. They were on the way to a masterpiece here when they messed it up with all of the overbooking. You could have completely eliminated at least one of the belt/ref bump things and gotten to Rhyno sooner and the match would have felt tighter. On the more positive side though, this match ran over twenty two minutes and felt like it was about half of that. It never dragged once and that’s one of the hardest things to accomplish in wrestling. Great match and a forgotten classic of an opener.

Stephanie (in a t-shirt for a very rare visual) comes in to see Vince, who is smelling flowers. Bickering ensues and Stephanie DOES NOT want to talk about Linda. Vince is going to Raw to confront Kane. It turns out the flowers are for Stephanie, who calls them nice in a rather aggressive way. Actually the roses are for Sable, but the small bouquet of dried out daises are for Stephanie.

We recap Billy Gunn vs. Jamie Noble, which REALLY doesn’t warrant a recap video. If nothing else, they should be showing more shots of Torrie rather than Jamie. Basically Noble wants to sleep with Torrie and has offered her thousands of dollars. Torrie finally agreed to sleep with him if he can beat Billy tonight.

Billy Gunn vs. Jamie Noble

Jamie brings a briefcase of everything he’ll need for a great night with Torrie. Billy kicks it into his face before opening it up to reveal….I’m going to leave that to your imaginations actually. Billy takes him inside for a wheelbarrow faceplant but misses a splash in the corner. Jamie tries a dive to the floor but gets caught, only to have Billy’s knee give out. Cue Nidia as Jamie cranks on the bad knee.

Billy jumps over a kick to the leg and hits a heck of a cobra clutch slam (take that Jinder) to put both guys down. The Fameasser misses so Billy settles for a cutter for two. Jamie gets in a super DDT but Nidia puts Billy’s foot on the ropes. Torrie comes over for some reason and gets kissed, causing Noble to get slapped back and forth. Back up and Billy gets rammed into Torrie, setting up a rollup with Jamie’s hands on the tights (I saw no pulling) for the pin.

Rating: D. They kept it short and while that made it feel like a TV match, this was much more about getting in and out and moving on. Gunn continues to feel way out of place on these shows while Jamie is doing what he can with a pretty stupid character. You can tell this story is going to continue and while it’s not thrilling, it’s better than letting Billy do anything more important.

The APA isn’t happy with Brooklyn Brawler beating them down on Thursday but invite Funaki anyway. Funaki: “What should I wear?” Bradshaw: “Come as a Japanese reporter who wrestlers part time.” The Easter Bunny walks up (I believe bunnies are supposed to HOP!) and Bradshaw thinks this is going to be fun.

APA Invitational Bar Room Brawl

Faarooq, Bradshaw, Brooklyn Brawler, Chuck Palumbo, Brother Love, Chris Kanyon, Conquistador Dos, Conquistador Uno, Danny Basham, Doink the Clown, Doug Basham, Easter Bunny, Funaki, John Hennigan, Johnny Stamboli, Shannon Moore, Nunzio, Matt Cappatelli, Matt Hardy, Orlando Jordan, Sean O’Haire, Spanky

The Conquistadors are Rob Conway and Johnny Jeter (of the Spirit Squad), Doink is Nick Dinsmore and the Easter Bunny is Aaron Stevens (Damien Sandow). There’s a big bar set up, complete with bottles, some tables, a big saloon sign and a lamp. Everyone is handed a beer as they come in, including Hardy, who hates barfights. The last man drinking wins here because Bradshaw wants to test their livers.

Before we get going though, Love wants a benediction. After he’s done insulting the APA and asking forgiveness, he breaks a stool over the Conquistadors’ backs. Welcome to the main roster guys. Most people are standing around drinking but some are beating the heck out of the Bunny. The Brawler throws Doink through a window as Funaki sits at the bar. O’Haire grabs some pool cues and breaks them over the APA’s heads.

Moore dives off the stage to take O’Haire out but Love breaks a mirror over his head. The Bunny goes through another window and Matt drives a Basham and Kanyon through a table (on the second try). Bradshaw bottles Love in the head and that’s finally it, despite Faarooq standing next to him.

Rating: N/A. This wasn’t wrestling in any way and was little more than a joke that got old in a hurry. They did at least keep it short, but was there a point to this other than filling time? You have these people who have been getting pushed in recent months (Hardy and O’Haire at least) and they’re stuck in this mess designed to keep the APA over? Come on already.

Noble is enjoying a very worn copy of Torrie’s Playboy (with the camera catching a rather clear shot of one of the pictures, which isn’t censored whatsoever on the Network) and brags to a backstage worker. The guy asks about Nidia and is told to mind his own business.

Tag Team Titles: Rey Mysterio/Billy Kidman vs. World’s Greatest Tag Team

Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin are defending. Shelton takes Rey down to start before they seem to botch a headscissors. The second attempt works a bit better and it’s off to Kidman, who takes a hard knee to the ribs. Something like a Bubba Bomb gets two on Rey and a powerslam gets the same.

We’re already in the chinlock, which hopefully isn’t a sign of this match being short. Shelton’s powerbomb is reversed and the hot tag brings in Kidman. A BK Bomb gives Kidman two and Rey is fast enough to break up the dive onto Kidman’s back. The 619 is broken up as well so Rey settles for a springboard seated senton to the floor to drop Benjamin.

Kidman one ups him with a shooting star to the floor as things have picked WAY up in a hurry. Thankfully the fans seem to appreciate it as well, which is a great sign after the previous match/segment seemed to kill them off a good bit. Shelton posts Kidman though and the champs take over again. Kidman slips out of a surfboard and sends Charlie outside but you know they’re not doing the second hot tag that easily. The tag connects but Shelton had the referee, drawing some very nice heat from the crowd.

A second attempt works a bit better and it’s Rey coming in with an enziguri to Shelton. The 619 into the springboard seated senton looks to finish but the referee is with Kidman, allowing Shelton to make the save. Kidman launches Rey up for a super hurricanrana and a VERY near fall on Haas. Rey’s shocked face and the big reaction from the crowd push things even further as the fans don’t buy that it was only two. Rey loads up a victory roll on Haas but Benjamin makes a blind tag and springboards into a clothesline as Haas powerbombs him down to retain.

Rating: B+. I know the Cruiserweight Title is taking a hit by having the champ do this other stuff but sweet goodness this was a fun match. They seemed to just tell the wrestlers to go nuts for fifteen minutes and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you have four people who are capable of something like this. Really fun match here with the champs being more than capable of having with the fast paced challengers.

We recap Stephanie ripping Sable’s top off, including all the screeching.

Sable vs. Stephanie McMahon

No countout here for some reason. Stephanie’s top is rather low cut because that’s at least half the point of this match. Cole has the nerve to say this should be good because they’re both former Women’s Champions. I’m so glad we’re done with that era and have moved on to something a little more respectable.

The catfight is on with the chase going through the crowd, mainly focusing on shots of Sable’s shorts. Back in with Sable talking trash and slowly stomping in the corner. We hit the Grind over Stephanie, who grabs a rollup for a fast two. Sable gets in a good slap but Cole says we haven’t seen Stephanie’s yet. Stephanie gets in an elbow in the corner, followed by punches that make Shane McMahon’s look great.

They head outside again with the referee having to take a chair away from Stephanie. Back in and Stephanie hits the slap before mounting Sable for the horrible slaps. Sable’s face is rubbed into the mat and a Hennig necksnap takes her down again. Back up and Sable’s top is ripped apart so the referee gives her his shirt. Cue the A-Train to run Stephanie down, giving Sable the pin.

Rating: D+. That’s on a very sliding scale and they certainly tried. They were running around as fast as they could and didn’t bother trying to have anything resembling a match. That’s the right call here and given that it was relatively short, this was much more inoffensive than I was expecting. It’s certainly not good or anything but given what kind of a disaster this had the potential to be, I’ll take what I can get. I’m not sure what the point of no countout was though as it’s not like they’re going to get counted while running in the crowd (which wasn’t long in the first place).

Stephanie has to get helped out and for some reason gets an ovation.

We recap John Cena vs. Undertaker. Cena is on a roll (despite not really winning any major matches) and wanted a big match for his one year anniversary. He went on to beat up Orlando Jordan, who got the big sign of respect from Undertaker after the match. Cena started calling himself the real legend of WWE and you just don’t do that. Undertaker wasn’t happy and here we are.

John Cena vs. Undertaker

My goodness what that could have meant under different circumstances. Cena’s pre-match rap basically says Undertaker is old and Cena is awesome. The motorcycle seems to stall as Undertaker keeps fiddling with the key and the camera switches to Cena standing in the ring for a good while. Undertaker eventually walks down to the ring with the bike still on the stage, which is certainly better than the Hulk Hogan fiasco last year.

Undertaker drives him into the corner to start and Cena actually slaps him in the face. That earns him one heck of a toss and the beating is on early. They head outside with Cena getting tossed into the barricade but grabbing a drink of water to spit in Undertaker’s face. Amazingly enough that has no effect and Cena gets posted again. All Undertaker in the early going and the apron legdrop makes things even worse.

Back in and Undertaker drives some knees into the ribs as Cole says Undertaker has been doing this for eleven years. I mean, it’s closer to thirteen but Cole it’s better than the Women’s Title line from earlier. Old School and a chokeslam get two as Undertaker pulls Cena up. Cena escapes the Last Ride though and grabs a DDT for a much needed breather. With Undertaker down, Cena pulls off a turnbuckle pad, making me wonder why the referee isn’t watching Cena at the moment.

Back up and Undertaker elbows him in the face but charges into the exposed buckle. Cena knocks him off the apron and into the barricade for a thud and Undertaker is spitting up blood. They head back inside with Undertaker missing a jumping boot of all things but settling for two off a neckbreaker. Cena knees him in the back to cut Undertaker off again but Undertaker slips out of the FU.

A big boot and legdrop give Undertaker two and he switches to a choke on the mat in the corner. That seems like some major spot calling or just an awkward spot for some reason. Cena uses the distraction to hit him in the ribs with the chain, setting up the FU for two. There is really no logical reason for that not being the pin. Like really, none at all and it hurts the FU when it’s just becoming a big time finisher. Cena does the always stupid right hands in the corner and it’s the Last Ride for the pin.

Rating: B. They were getting somewhere but my goodness Undertaker shouldn’t have gone over. This should have been Cena’s chance to be launched into the main event but instead it’s just Undertaker pinning him after a ton of offense. If Cena can’t beat him while cheating and hitting his finisher, why would I want to see him fight again? Completely wrong ending to an otherwise good match.

We recap Vince McMahon vs. Zach Gowen, which seems to be a David vs. Goliath story but I’m still not sure what Vince gets out of this. It’s something about Vince wanting to screw Stephanie over but the story of Stephanie wanting to protect Gowen from Vince for the sake of Stephanie’s childhood innocent didn’t make sense. Anyway, Stephanie and Gowen one upped Vince and earned Zach a contract so Vince is giving him his first singles match because he wants real athletes and not half men in his company.

Vince McMahon vs. Zach Gowen

Vince casually backs him into the corner to start before wrestling him down and rolling around Gowen’s back. Some shots in the corner have Gowen in more trouble until he backdrops Vince over the top. An Asai moonsault and a middle rope Fameasser gives Gowen two, despite neither having much impact whatsoever.

Vince starts in on the good leg and Cole is RIGHT THERE to explain how much of a problem this could be for Zach. Never let it be said that WWE left you alone to figure something out on your own. The leg is wrapped around the post as Cole tries to explain the story behind the whole thing. We hit the half crab (not a leg hold but nice try) until Gowen makes the rope and scores with a dropkick.

Now it’s Vince’s getting crotched against the post and having his leg wrapped around the post. Cole: “Now the playing field is even!”. Not quite nimrod, but we’ll move on. Gowen hits a top rope bulldog and a middle rope dropkick. The moonsault gets two and now we’re just waiting on Gowen losing. Vince grabs a chair but gets it dropkicked into his face to draw a heck of a cut. Gowen misses the second moonsault though and Vince gets the easy pin.

Rating: D. They were trying as hard as they could here but there’s really not much you can do with this concept. Gowen has one leg and does a lot of impressive things for someone in his condition. I’ve seen it for a few weeks now and this time I saw him do it in long form against Vince. Then he doesn’t even win the thing? This is pretty much it for Gowen meaning anything and I have no idea what we’re supposed to care about him doing going forward as you can only watch this so many times. Yeah it’s an inspirational story, but it’s an inspirational story once, not four or five times now.

Gowen gets the big standing ovation and it’s lackluster at best. Tazz: “How many people get to say they’ve busted Vince McMahon wide open?” Uh, a fairly good amount actually?

Eddie says a victory is a victory and what happened to Benoit is his own fault.

We recap the World Title match. Brock Lesnar beat Kurt Angle to win the title at Wrestlemania in Angle’s last match for several months. Lesnar then feuded with Big Show for months but Angle is back and now Brock’s best friend. A three way feud ensued and it’s time for a triple threat. This gets the music video treatment.

Smackdown World Title: Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle

Brock is defending, there are no disqualifications and it’s one fall to a finish. Show has to clothesline the new best friends down and it’s a chokeslam for an early two on Lesnar. Angle can’t German suplex the giant but he can pick the ankle for the ankle lock. That’s kicked away though and a superkick drops Angle again. Lesnar dives in for a save before hitting a middle rope back elbow to Show’s jaw.

It’s Kurt bringing in the first weapons with some garbage can lids and a series of shots finally put Show down. He’s right back up with a double suplex though, only to have Angle and Lesnar chokeslam him down. Tazz: “So Big Show suplexes the guys who suplex and they chokeslam the guy who chokeslams???”. Score one for the Red Hook school system.

Angle gets knocked outside and the F5 on Show gets a delayed two with Angle pulling the referee to the floor. A shot to Angle’s head busts him open, leaving Show to load Brock up for a superplex. That’s countered into a good looking running powerbomb but Angle makes another save with a chair. Angle chairs both of them out to the floor but gets it kicked back into his face.

While a bleeding Lesnar is stuck on the other side of the ring, an Angle Slam puts Show through the announcers’ table. That leaves Angle and Lesnar in the ring for the big showdown with Lesnar throwing him over the top in a hurry. Brock gets whipped into the steps though and Angle is cut on the back of his head. Back in and Angle tosses Brock with a release German suplex, sending Brock onto his stomach for a great looking flip.

The Angle Slam is countered into a spinebuster for two but Angle slaps on a choke. Show comes back in for the save and covers both guys at once for two. A double chokeslam gets another pair of near falls but Lesnar kicks the monster low. Kurt grabs the ankle again, only to let go of Brock and Angle Slam Show. Another Angle Slam to Lesnar is enough for the pin and the title.

Rating: B+. This was a very well booked match as it felt like it took the two superheroes to deal with Big Show, leaving them to fight it out later. That’s exactly how you want something like this to go and they made it work quite well. Angle winning sets up another big match with Brock down the line and you can throw Show in there if you absolutely have to. Really strong match here and again, I get why Show was in there for a change as you don’t want to waste Angle vs. Lesnar II on Vengeance.

Overall Rating: B+. This is a heck of a show and if they had cut out some of the weaker stuff (like about eight minutes of Vince vs. Zach and the whole Billy vs. Jamie match), it could be an all time classic. The big stuff is very good, but the bad stuff (including some of the choices, mainly Undertaker winning) really holds it back. That being said, this show made Smackdown feel like what it used to be: the wrestling show, which is exactly the kind of thing it needs to be to feel different from Raw. Excellent show here and something that gives me a lot of confidence in Smackdown going forward.

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