Smackdown – January 1, 2004

Date: January 1, 2004
Location: Laredo Entertainment Center, Laredo, Texas
Attendance: 5,100
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

This year has to be better right? Smackdown was the better of the two shows but it’s not like 2003 was very good either way. We’ve got three shows left before the Royal Rumble and aside from Hardcore Holly vs. Brock Lesnar for the Smackdown World Title, there’s very little set up. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of two weeks ago where Holly became # 1 contender thanks to A-Train screwing up again. That certainly seems to be a trend with him.

Opening sequence.

Cruiserweight Title: Tajiri vs. Rey Mysterio

Mysterio is challenging. They grapple to start with neither being able to get anywhere and it’s a standoff. Tajiri takes him down by the leg but gets reversed into a rollup for two. A chest first whip into the corner takes Rey down but the handspring elbow is countered with a dropkick to the back.

That means a big flip dive to really put Tajiri down as we go to a break. Not a bad way to get us going in the new year. Back with Sakoda breaking up the 619 so Tajiri can start back in on the knee. A dropkick to the knee in the Tree of Woe gets two but the bad knee is fine enough for a middle rope hurricanrana to get Rey out of trouble. The springboard seated senton is countered into a half crab though and Mysterio is right back in trouble again.

Rey makes the rope and, since the match has been going on for a while now, it’s time for a ref bump. He’s back up in time for a two off Tajiri’s sitout powerbomb and we keep going. Another springboard bangs the knee up though (you knew that had to happen eventually) and Tajiri kicks him in the face. The green mist hits Sakoda by mistake though and a standing hurricanrana gives Rey the pin and the title.

Rating: B. Tajiri had held the title for a nice, long (by this title’s standards) reign and putting it back on Mysterio made sense. Changing the title to open the year was a good idea and the fact that it was a longer match made things that much better. Rey can drop it to a hot heel down the line and he’s still the biggest name in the division by a mile and a half.

Post match Rey thanks the fans and says he’ll be champion around the world. Cue Big Show to say that’s nice but it’s time to shill the new Big Show t-shirt. Rey takes it away and threatens to make it a souvenir for a fan despite Big Show telling him not to. He does it anyway of course and gets beaten down, because this is what you do with a new champion. Hardcore Holly comes in for the save.

Some soldiers say Happy New Year.

Post break Big Show breaks a bunch of stuff so Paul Heyman gives him Holly later tonight.

Bradshaw vs. Rhyno

The rubber match. Bradshaw knees him in the corner and gets two off a shoulder. A DDT gives Rhyno the same but Bradshaw hits the Last Call followed by a big boot. The Clothesline puts Rhyno away in short order. And that’s the feud.

Earlier today, Los Guerreros were at a low rider parade.

The announcers talk about Tribute to the Troops.

Video on Tribute to the Troops.

John Cena comes up to Heyman in the back and asks where Heyman was last week in Baghdad. Heyman wasn’t there and Cena thinks he’s a coward. That’s too far for Heyman, who says he’s a leader of men. Therefore, let’s see what kind of an idea Heyman can come up with regarding say, the Royal Rumble. Cena isn’t currently included (no one is) but if he wins tonight, he can be included. All he has to do is find a partner to face all three members of the FBI. Oh and if Cena and his partner lose, neither are in the Rumble. That match is next by the way, so HAPPY NEW YEAR.

John Cena/Chris Benoit vs. FBI

And Cena/Benoit are supposed to be underdogs here? Cena’s pre-match rap says the FBI is stupid while Benoit actually rhymes an acceptance (Benoit: “I’m sick and tired of Heyman’s crap, I’ll be your partner tonight and make these b****** tap. Word life.”). The numbers game has the good guys in trouble to start but Cena easily takes over on Stamboli, mainly because it’s John Cena vs. Johnny Stamboli. The FBI gets Cena into the corner for the rotating stomps and Palumbo adds a good suplex.

The vocal Benoit starts a Cena chant, which is cut off by a big right hand from Palumbo. We hit the chinlock from Stamboli for a bit until Cena finally dives over and brings Benoit in for a long series of suplexes. A double clothesline takes Benoit down for two, with Stamboli looking over for Cena to make the save twice in a row. Palumbo’s superkick to Benoit breaks up the Sharpshooter and gets another near fall but the Crossface makes Stamboli tap a few seconds later.

Rating: C. Not bad at all here as it turned into a hot finish but who in the world thought Cena and Benoit couldn’t beat these schmucks? Benoit and Cena are going to be big players in the Rumble and since WWE has taken their sweet time getting here, they can only build up a story in very short order.

Clips of troops in a very long line for autographs in Baghdad.

Here’s the returning Kurt Angle for a chat. Angle has been away on a break but last week, those troops inspired him to come back to the ring. He was over there a few weeks ago and got to meet a lot of the soldiers as well. It made him proud to be an American and he met one soldier in particular. This guy had been over there for a year and when he left, his wife was eight months pregnant. All he wanted was to get back to see his new baby girl. Angle has a daughter of his own and he wants to make her proud of him too. Therefore, he’s entering the Royal Rumble and he’s winning for the troops.

Big Show vs. Hardcore Holly

Non-title as we’re still waiting on Big Show to defend the thing two and a half months after he won it. Holly punches away to start but Show clotheslines him down with authority. I’m not sure whose authority but it certainly worked. A big headbutt puts Holly down and the Hog Log gets two. Show drives an elbow into the neck so Holly goes after the knee to take him down.

A top rope clothesline gets two but Holly walks into a side slam to put him down again. It’s almost like Holly doesn’t have anywhere near the level of offense to be a realistic threat against Big Show. It’s back to the neck with a full nelson, drawing in Mysterio with a chair. Show knocks him down too so Holly goes low for the DQ.

Rating: F. So what was the point here? To make the #1 contender look like he can’t beat the US Champion? To make the US Champion look like a big monster, which you can kind of tell just by looking at him? The ending makes things that much worse as not only does Holly lose but it’s just a cheap way to make him look even more worthless than he has since he came back.

Holly beats him down with the chair.

Billy Gunn is back at the Rumble. I know the brand split made the rosters thin but between this and Hardcore Holly as a World Title challenger, they’re in real trouble on Thursdays.

Benoit comes in to see Heyman, who calls Benoit a working stiff like him. Heyman is management though and that’s what’s going to stop him at the Rumble. His solution: Benoit is going to be #1 (with Heyman almost screaming as he rants about how Benoit is done at the Rumble). Benoit grabs Heyman’s finger and bends it back before going into his own rant about how he’s fighting for his family and everything he has sacrificed to get here. This show has seen Benoit do more intense/emotional talking than I’ve seen him do in years.

Various low level guys congratulate Mysterio on winning the title until Eddie comes in to celebrate in Spanish. Chavo looks on in disgust as Eddie enters the Royal Rumble. He takes Eddie aside to talk about how they need to win the Tag Team Titles. Chavo isn’t exactly thrilled with Eddie at the moment and you can feel the tension.

Ad saying watch Smackdown. Glad to see I did my job already.

Los Guerreros vs. World’s Greatest Tag Team

The Eddie chants get on Chavo’s nerves again as Eddie takes Haas into the corner to start. It’s off to Chavo, who is taken into the wrong corner and caught with an overhead t-bone suplex. Chavo stops a charge in the corner with a raised boot but won’t tag, instead walking into a powerslam. Haas gets knocked down again and Chavo is right next to Eddie but goes back into the fight again. A double knockdown puts both Chavo and Haas down so Eddie distracts the referee, allowing him to pull Chavo to the corner.

This time Eddie cuts out the middle man and tags himself in so the pace can pick up. Three Amigos have Haas down but Chavo tags himself in to really further the issues. The distraction lets Eddie get knocked to the floor and Chavo’s frog splash hits knees. Shelton superkicks the heck out of Chavo and Haas gets the pin.

Rating: D+. This was much more of an angle than a match and that’s fine. They’ve been teasing this split for so long now that they almost have to do it here before the thing gets stale. Chavo’s reasoning for the heel turn makes sense but he’s coming off like a jerk, which is exactly the kind of thing that should lead to such a split. The match was bad, but that’s not the point of something like this.

Post Chavo blames Eddie for the loss because he’s sick of not hearing his name cheered. Eddie immediately tries to start a CHAVO chant but just gets cheered even louder. Chavo is sick of Eddie and slaps him in the face. Eddie looks ready to snap but here’s Angle to break things up.

Post break, Angle tells Eddie he’s doing this for the troops but Eddie is being selfish for doing this to his flesh and blood. Angle talks about this being traditional family values (Eddie: “FAMILY VALUES???”) and wants Eddie to look in the mirror.

The announcers talk about what just happened….and that’s how the show ends.

Overall Rating: C-. This show went off a cliff after the halfway point and that ending was really weird. I’ll give them some points for hitting the ground running with the Rumble build though as they went from no one to four big names being in the match in one night. That’s what they had to do and it worked well. What didn’t work well was most of the wrestling here, which took a hard backseat to the angle advancement. That’s more important, but it was a rocky way to get there.

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