Smackdown – January 22, 2004

Date: January 22, 2004
Location: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Attendance: 6,500
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s the final show before the Royal Rumble and most of Sunday is already set. You can always use more focus on the Rumble itself, but I have a bad feeling we might be in for a heavy dose of Hardcore Holly vs. Brock Lesnar tonight. I for one can’t get enough of the WWE Champion vs. the race car driver. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of Chavo Guerrero turning on his uncle Eddie, leading to Kurt Angle getting involved and setting up a tag match with Chavo and his dad vs. Eddie/Angle tonight. I’m not a big Chavo fan but he’s been money in this feud.

Opening sequence.

Rey Mysterio vs. Chuck Palumbo

Rey tries hammering away but a hard shoulder puts him down. Palumbo tries a powerbomb, earning all those right hands to the head. The 619 is loaded up early on but Johnny Stamboli low bridges Rey to the floor. Back in and Palumbo starts in on the knee by ramming it into the mat and grabbing a half crab. Ever the creative one, Rey flings his free leg back to kick Palumbo, whose staggering puts Rey closer to the ropes.

Instead of getting kicked again, Palumbo switched to a regular Boston crab. That’s broken up so Palumbo puts him on top, only to get caught with a top rope seated senton. A springboard moonsault into a reverse DDT gives Mysterio two but Nunzio’s distraction lets Palumbo kick his head off. Back up and Palumbo tries a fireman’s carry, only to get reversed into a rollup for the fast pin.

Rating: D. The problem here was with Palumbo, who clearly had no idea how to wrestle a match against someone that much smaller than him. While he isn’t the biggest guy in the world, Palumbo is big enough to wrestle a power style here and that’s not what we got. Mysterio was trying but Palumbo just isn’t that good.

Post match the FBI comes in and gives Mysterio the bigger beatdown. Jamie Noble comes out and pays them off before his match with Mysterio on Sunday. Of note: does anyone remember that Nunzio and Noble are supposed to be cousins? I don’t remember the last time it was mentioned and it certainly wasn’t here.

Paul Heyman is really not happy with John Cena and Chris Benoit for ruining the morality of this show, which certainly isn’t related to making him eat soap last week. Therefore tonight, for the sake of restoring the morals that this company were based on, they’ll be teaming up against Big Show/Brock Lesnar/Matt Morgan/Rhyno. The four of them just happen to be standing off camera.

Kurt Angle yells at Chavo and Chavo over messing with the family bond. He grew up under the pressure of having four older brothers who were better athletes than him. His way out? He won an Olympic gold medal. They’ll learn a lesson in the ring tonight.

Royal Rumble Qualifying Match: Tajiri vs. Billy Kidman

No Akio/Sakoda at ringside. Kidman starts fast with an armdrag and a hurricanrana but gets pulled off the top for a crash. It’s off to an armbar on Kidman’s recently repaired shoulder in a smart move. Tazz thinks Tajiri is smart for eating so much rice and a spinning kick to the arm seems to support that line of thinking. The handspring elbow is blocked with a dropkick but Kidman misses the shooting star. A Buzzsaw kick sends Tajiri to the Rumble.

Brock and Big Show are in the back to talk about the match and Show is sick of Lesnar following him around to “protect” him from Hardcore Holly. Show needs some time to himself and has the cops to protect him. Therefore, tonight Show is taking tonight off and after Sunday, he’s coming after the WWE Title, whether Lesnar or someone else holds it.

Royal Rumble Qualifying Match: A-Train vs. Shannon Moore

A-Train has shaved his beard and possibly some of his chest hair. Shannon drop toeholds him into the middle buckle to start but gets THROWN into the same corner for a little more impact. We hit something close to a Gory Stretch but cue the Cat of all people to dance, setting up a rollup to give Shannon two. A-Train will have none of that and sends him into the steps, followed by the Train Wreck for the fast pin.

Team Lesnar is in Heyman’s office but Paul wants to know where Show is. Lesnar explains things but Heyman says Show is just getting himself fired up. It’ll be SHOW TIME when the match is on.

Video on Holly vs. Lesnar.

John Cena/Chris Benoit vs. Brock Lesnar/Matt Morgan/Rhyno

No Show, and Heyman is sitting in a lifeguard chair at ringside. Before the match, Cena (great pop on his entrance) apologizes for not rubbing the soap in Heyman’s eyes last week too. Gay jokes are made about Heyman and then Show/Lesnar/Heyman, which of course get the better reactions. Lesnar, Morgan and Rhyno come out but there’s a forklift in front of Show’s locker room, confirming that it’s going to be 3-2.

Lesnar and Benoit get things going with Brock running away and tagging in Morgan with no action. So it’s Morgan being sent face first into the buckle and Cena coming in to forearm him in the back. Cena gets taken into the corner and the numbers game starts to get the better of him as Heyman looks on in near disgust. Rhyno can’t keep Cena in trouble though and it’s back to Benoit, who gets beaten up a little more easily. Heyman is thrilled when Lesnar comes in to start stomping away but it’s quickly back to Cena. They’re certainly moving with the tags here so far.

A spinebuster cuts Cena off and it’s back to Rhyno for a cross arm choke, allowing Cole to remind us that Big Show was supposed to be involved here too for about the third time in a minute. Lesnar comes back in for the corner shoulders but misses a charge. That’s enough for the hot tag to Benoit so we hit the rolling German suplexes, causing Heyman’s jaw to drop in fear. Rhyno breaks up the Crossface and hits a spinebuster, only to charge into a drop toehold into the ropes.

That’s enough for Lesnar, who takes a walk but gets jumped by Hardcore Holly. Cops come in for the save and we take a break. Back with fans telling Heyman that he ate soap as Morgan comes back in to headbutt Benoit. Rhyno knocks Cena off the apron and Gores Benoit for two with Cena diving back in for the save. Morgan misses an elbow though and now the hot tag brings Cena in to clean house. Everything breaks down and Cena dodges a Gore, setting up the FU for the pin on Rhyno.

Rating: C+. It’s rather impressive to turn a 4-2 handicap match into a regular tag inside of twenty minutes. Cena and Benoit battling the authority is fine though they’ll be better off when it gets down to Cena doing it alone as he’s much more anti-authority than Benoit and would fit better on his own. They’re both looking like stars though and that’s the best thing about the whole story.

Post match Cena and Benoit go after Heyman but Show comes in for some chokeslams.

Royal Rumble Qualifying Match: Bradshaw vs. Akio vs. Sakoda

Bradshaw beats them both up and hits a super Last Call for two on Sakoda. The double teaming starts working but, to my shock and awe, they get in an argument over who can pin Bradshaw. A double suplex gets one and another argument breaks out. Sakoda gets sent outside and Akio heads up, only to dive into the Clothesline to send Bradshaw to the Rumble.

Billy Gunn’s greatest moment ever: the wedding to Chuck. For some reason this is edited off of the Network, likely due to a music deal, though the previous two parts of the countdown were included.

Angle gives Eddie a pep talk and says the Guerrero family is messed up. If Eddie could control the Latino Heat, he could be WWE Champion. Tonight, they’re doing things by Angle’s rules: block out all emotions and concentrate on winning. Angle is kind of a jerk here.

Kurt Angle/Eddie Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr./Chavo Guerrero Sr.

Eddie’s music is very quiet for some reason, being little more than background noise. At least it picks up right near the end and then Angle’s music is normal. Angle has to hold Eddie back from wrecking his family so we stall a bit before the bell. Jr. and Angle start things off but Kurt wants a handshake from Eddie, who tags him instead. For some reason that doesn’t count as a tag so Angle takes Jr. down with a headlock instead. The fans think Chavo sucks, though they don’t specify which one.

Jr. gets shouldered out to the floor and that means some advice from his dad. Sr. comes in but Angle still won’t tag Eddie. Some armdrags have Angle in more control so Eddie comes in to try and get his hands on someone. That sends the Chavos bailing to the floor so now Angle brings Eddie in for real. The emotions draw Eddie outside and the double teaming has Eddie in trouble.

Sr. chokes in the corner before coming in for a bow and arrow hold, followed by a crossface chickenwing. Jr. is back in with a dropkick in the corner but Eddie scores with a dropkick and it’s Angle coming back in to clean house. Eddie tags himself back in and everything breaks down. Double suplexes take the villains down but Angle gets poked in the eye, causing him to Angle Slam Eddie by mistake. Sr. hits a DDT as Angle is taken away, leaving Jr. to frog splash Eddie for the pin.

Rating: C+. Perfectly fine here and it’s the right call to have Chavo get a pin to set up Sunday’s match. Having both Chavos in there wasn’t the worst idea in the world as it’s not like Jr. has any other friends at the moment. Throw in the touch of Eddie’s family betraying him and it’s not a bad story. Eddie vs. Angle should be awesome too and the slow build to get there is nice.

Overall Rating: B-. This was designed to be more about the big angles getting the focus and that’s a good thing. It’s also nice to have Holly vs. Lesnar get very little time as they’re not really hiding the fact that they want the match over as soon as possible. Things are starting to pick up for the early stages of Wrestlemania season and hopefully things stay hot when we really get going.

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