Mike Reviews: WWF Vengeance 2001
Seeing as Chris Jericho is, in my opinion, doing a cracking job as the World Champ in AEW, I thought I’d look back to his very first World Title win in his career (Sorry if I just spoiled the result of the main event for you). Of course this reign ended up being a bit of a disaster (Owing mostly to the WWF booking Jericho to be an ineffectual putz as Champion) but it was someone new in the top spot for a change, which was refreshing at the time.
This event actually took place a month after Survivor Series 2001, an event that saw the WWF finally bring an end to the insipid “Invasion” angle by having The Alliance heel stable be defeated in the main event. As a result the company now had both the WWF and WCW Titles hanging around, so they decided to unify the two belts ahead of WrestleMania season, hence we get a four man tournament to decide who gets to take the two belts home.
Considering the December event this year is being treated as such an afterthought by WWE (To the point that it took till 10 days out to even announce any matches for it) it’s interesting to see such an important moment as unifying the two World Titles happening on this one.
There was actually a bit of controversy at the time as a lot of the marketing for the event seemed to strongly suggest that Triple H was going to make a return following his first torn quad injury, with his trademark sledgehammer all over the marketing and graphics for the show. Instead the WWF decided to have his return be changed to a Raw show in 2002. A video set to U2’s “Beautiful Day” (Which the WWE Network removes entirely) was added to the event to appease the people who might have wanted to see Triple H, but it mostly led to people feeling liked they’d be baited and switched.
Anyway, enough blabbing, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
The event is emanating from San Diego, California on the 9th of December 2001
Calling the action are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
We open with an awesome video set to “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”, seeing clips of pro wrestling Champions over the years, with the idea being that we’ll finally see an Undisrupted Champion tonight. Interestingly this was probably the first time they ever really made use of the WCW video library in one of these packages, as Lex Luger, Ric Flair and Kevin Nash are all featured in it.
Drowning Pool’s “Sinner” remains intact on The Network, so they probably got the rights for future use of the song when they arranged to use their song as the pay per view theme. This isn’t something that always happens, but they still use “Bodies” by the same band on other shows on the Network, so it could be that Drowning Pool aren’t that precious about their songs being used.
Vince McMahon joins us, annoyed that his “Kiss My Ass Club” was brought to an end on a previous edition of Smackdown when The Rock shoved his face up Rikishi’s bum. Vince grabs a mic and blames Stone Cold Steve Austin for the ordeal, as he beat up Kurt Angle who was supposed to come to Vince’s rescue. I do wonder why we’re starting a pay per view with this filler, especially when we have a four man tournament that could do with getting a decent amount of time so that it isn’t rushed. Vince chastises the crowd for laughing at him getting his head shoved up Rikishi’s derriere and tells the fans that they can only laugh when he tells them to laugh. I do genuinely think that Vince would like to be able to order his fans to react exactly how he’d like them to if I’m honest. Ric Flair, the man who was currently the opposing authority figure in the WWF at the time due to buying out the McMahon kids, interrupts Vince to tell him the show is going to start.
The Hip-Hop-Hippo’s (Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert) Vs Christian and Test
Vince gives a primo scowl at Scotty and Albert’s dancing antics. Christian was the European Champion during this time, whilst Test had won immunity from getting fired at Survivor Series and was spending a lot of the time attacking refs because he knew he couldn’t be punished. Scotty and Albert shine to start, with Albert squishing his former partner Test for two. Albert and Scotty were a decent tandem actually, as Scotty was a decent babyface in peril with an over move and Albert wasn’t bad as big guy coming in for the hot tag.
Scotty eventually gets cut off when Christian drops him throat first over the top rope when he tries to give Test a 10 punch, thus beginning the heat segment. The crowd likes Scotty and pops when he manages to catch Test with a super kick for the double down, which leads to Albert getting the hot tag. Albert runs wild on both heels, with the fans being in to his dancing antics, and he actually gets a giant swing on Christian for two.
Albert mows down both heels when they try a double clothesline, but when he goes for the Baldo Bomb on Christian he gets dragged out of the ring by Test. Scotty goes for his trademark face buster on Christian, but Christian counters to a reverse DDT and teases doing his own W-O-R-M. Albert puts a stop to that but ends up eating a big boot from Test, which gets two for Christian when Scotty makes the save. Heel miscommunication sees Test accidentally back body drop Christian to the floor, which allows Scotty to get the W-O-R-M on the big man. Albert comes in with a Baldo Bomb to Christian and that’s enough for the three.
WINNERS: THE HIP-HOP-HIPPO’S
This would fall neatly into Scott Keith’s “Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling” category, as both teams worked the abbreviated tag formula and warmed up the crowd, which is exactly what an opener is supposed to do. No complaints from me, good stuff from all four.
Jonathon Coachman is interviewing William Regal. Coach says that Regal’s methods have been “questionable” lately. Regal is disgusted by this comment and says that his methods are successful, and Edge will find that out next. He closes by calling Coach a “silly pillock”
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Edge Vs William Regal
Regal had been the infamous first member of the “Kiss My Ass Club”, and has thusly been taking on a much meaner and crueller edge (pardon the pun) as a result of the humiliation. This usually resulted in him hitting people with brass knuckles to win his matches. Edge had been solo for a few months at this point and had already been a three time IC Champ by the time of this show. I was becoming quite a fan of his actually and for most of 2002 he was my favourite wrestler. For those keeping score at home, Edge’s Rob Zombie entrance music remains intact here.
According to William Regal’s autobiography, the whole point of this feud was to have Edge work with the veteran Regal in hard hitting bouts to show that he wasn’t just a pretty boy and could mix it up with hardened fighters should the need arise. Edge shines on Regal to start and sends him scurrying outside of the ring with a dropkick. Edge makes the mistake of following Regal out to the floor however, which allows Regal to slug away at him and then take the fight back inside.
Regal controls things back inside, but Edge makes sporadic comebacks to show that he isn’t going to just sit and take it. This will hardly be a hot take, but Regal is great at getting the most out of everything he does and always has an air of authenticity to his ring style, probably because a lot of the time he is just hitting people, albeit in safe places that won’t leave any lasting damage.
Edge makes a comeback and gets a rana from a superplex position for two, before following up with a nice Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge for another two. Edge sends Regal outside and then goes for a dive off the apron, but Regal sidesteps and Edge goes flying into the ring steps. Whilst the referee checks on Edge, Regal heads over to a place near the ring where we see that he’s hidden some brass knuckles. Hey, an occasion where weapons being under the ring makes sense as the heel stashed them there himself just in case he needed them.
Regal gets a nice underhook powerbomb back inside the ring, but Edge is able to kick out, much to Mr. Regal’s chagrin. Edge gets a desperation dropkick on Regal and that leads to a double down. Regal gets up first and goes for a punch, but Edge ducks it and then gets a couple of roll ups for two, before getting knocked down by Regal again. Regal gets two more underhook powerbombs, but Edge kicks out once again, causing Regal to get frustrated even further. Regal decides he’s had enough and goes for the brass knuckles, but Edge catches him out of nowhere with the Spear to pick up the three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: EDGE
Decent match there that told a good story, as Edge weathered the Regal storm to the point that Regal got frustrated enough to go for his weapon even though he was in control of things, thus allowing Edge to catch him for the last gasp desperation victory.
Regal seethes following his defeat whilst Edge can barely stand, laying the foundation for the rematch between the two at the Royal Rumble where Regal would eventually claim the Title.
Ric Flair is on the phone to someone talking about how awesome it will be that we’ll have an Undisputed Champion. Kurt Angle storms in to tell at him about how he’s going to win tonight. Flair just agrees with everything he says and tells him he’s awesome, which causes Angle to storm off.
Lita, the ref for the next match, gets pestered by Matt Hardy. Lita says she’ll call the match down the middle, which seems to momentarily annoy Matt but he eventually comes around to the idea. Or does he? Who knows? Are you intrigued? Are you? Really?
Guest Referee: Lita
Matt Hardy Vs Jeff Hardy
This one came about because Jeff Hardy essentially cost The Hardyz the Tag Titles in a cage match at Survivor Series by going for a Swanton Bomb through a table rather than climbing out of the cage, leading to him missing and getting pinned. This led to weeks of arguing between them and eventually this match was booked. Lita tried to play peacemaker but this annoyed Matt, so he demanded she be the ref for this one so we could find out where she stood. Matt of course had reason to be annoyed in storyline but he was also being a jerk about it, hence why he’s pretty much the heel here.
Matt tries to bully Jeff around in the early going, but Jeff uses speed and wrestling to avoid that. Matt decides to pull the hair to get himself out of a hold and throws strikes and chops. Jeff tries to fire back, so Matt goes to the eyes to stop that and to clearly show that he’s the one who is going to be bending the rules here whilst Jeff is going to be more of a traditional babyface. Matt goes for the AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH leg drop, but Jeff moves out of the way and then makes a comeback before getting his own AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH leg drop for two.
Jeff goes for Whisper in the Wind, but Matt stops that and hangs him in the Tree of Woe. Lita pulls Jeff out of that (actually earning her some boo’s from some sections of the crowd) with the excuse that it was illegal. Matt tries to sunset flip powerbomb Jeff off the apron, but Jeff counters that to a rana and flips back in, seemingly hurting his leg in the process. Matt targets the leg, getting a mixture of cheers and boos from the crowd, even though he’s clearly trying to be the heel here. Jeff manages to get a Russian Leg Sweep for two, but Matt quickly goes back to the leg with a half Boston Crab.
Jeff makes the ropes to break the hold, but Matt milks the 5 count, much to Lita’s displeasure. Jeff counters a spinning toe hold by kicking Matt out to the floor and then follows with a baseball slide. Jeff can’t get a dive to the outside however as his leg goes out, but he manages to get a modified enziguri when Matt targets the leg again back inside. Matt and Jeff trade punches, but Jeff gets the better of that and delivers a back suplex before heading up top for a Swanton Bomb.
Matt stops that and then flings Jeff back into the ring Flair Style before going for the Twist of Fate. Jeff slips out of that and tries one of his own, but Matt counters that into a backslide for two. Matt counters a Jeff sunset flip attempt by grabbling the ropes, but Lita admonishes him for that, aggravating him in the process. Matt continues to get annoyed at Lita calling this fairly, as they’ve totally lost the crowd here. Matt tries for a Twist of Fate off the top, but Jeff blocks it and then comes off the top with a Swanton Bomb for the win.
WINNER: JEFF HARDY
This was pretty lousy actually, as Matt and Jeff had no real chemistry as opponents despite being a great team and the crowd really didn’t seem to want to watch them fight one another.
Matt actually had his foot on the ropes during the winning pin but Jeff took his leg off the rope and Lita didn’t see it, which really makes no sense considering that Jeff worked the whole match as the face and that’s a total heel move. Matt storms to the back, feeling betrayed.
Trish Stratus goes to talk to The Rock and thanks him for helping her out on Smackdown when Vince McMahon was trying to harass her. Rock says it’s no problem, so Trish wishes him look and gives him a peck on the cheek. Rock implores her to find out what he’s cooking later on tonight. I’m not sure if that Trish/Rock thing went anywhere, as she tended to get around a bit and even had a thing going on with Steve Blackman at one stage.
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Dudley Boyz w/ Stacey Keibler Vs Big Show and Kane
I’m not sure what the backstory was here, but I assume it involved The Dudleyz attacking both of the faces at some point to set up a Title match. Kane and Big Show have their way with the Champs to start, throwing them around with ease and just generally working them over. In a funny bit Bubba Ray tries to tag out to D-Von, but D-Von refuses as he’s scared of getting beaten up by Big Show.
Both Dudleyz get thrown outside, where Kane dives out onto both of them, which brings Stacey into the ring, where Big Show spanks her for a pop. Kane eventually ends up taking a back drop/neck breaker combo from The Dudleyz, which is enough to make him face in peril for a bit. That’s an issue when you have such a dominant face team, in that one of them is going to have to eventually get worked over for the heat at some stage and it’s hard to get sympathy on someone that big.
Kane doesn’t get worked over for long and fights off The Dudleyz when they try to deliver 3-D, setting up the hot tag to Big Show. Big Show runs wild and goes for the choke slam on D-Von, but Bubba chop blocks him to stop that. Kane tries a clothesline to D-Von from the top, but D-Von moves and he catches Big Show instead. Kane apologises for this, but Big Show isn’t happy and the two argue, thus allowing The Dudleyz to rally.
Big Show and Kane regain control, but Show catches Kane by accident this time. Stacey tries to interfere, which draws the attention of the referee and allows The Dudleyz to pull the turnbuckle pad off to reveal the metal buckle before delivering a double Stun Gun onto the exposed steel to pick up the three count.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE DUDLEY BOYZ
They didn’t get much time but it probably helped them in a sense as it meant they could keep the heat on Kane short and do a match that was almost all action. I enjoyed it for what it was and The Dudleyz were bumping all over the place to make the challengers look like monsters.
We see that Lita is apologising to Matt for what happened in the match. Matt just grabs his gear and leaves without saying a word.
WWF Hardcore Title
Champ: Rob Van Dam Vs The Undertaker
Undertaker turned heel by forcing Jim Ross to kiss Vince McMahon’s ass in his hometown (Because in the WWF everyone must be embarrassed in their hometown as often as possible) and then went nuts beating people up because he felt he wasn’t getting enough respect. Interestingly the music they use for the video package here would be recycled as a theme for Mike Knox later on. Rob Van Dam was one of The Undertaker’s main targets, thus setting up this match.
Undertaker’s “Rollin’” theme is still intact here, which is often the case as it’s normally just the Kid Rock theme they dub over (I can only assume Kid Rock asks for more money than Fred Durst does). Eventually they’d change Undertaker’s theme music to something more generic in an effort to try and get people to stop cheering for him. RVD was getting pretty over here and quite a few people think he should have won the WWF Title back in October at the peak of that popularity, but they decided to keep their powder dry on that front and kept RVD in the hardcore division for a bit longer.
RVD uses his speed to elude Taker in the early going, but he ends up getting crotched on the top rope and then booted down to the floor. The crowd is loudly behind RVD here, chanting for him and cheering his usual spots. RVD manages to clothesline Taker into the crowd but when he tries to follow up with a dive out there he finds nothing but a punch waiting for him. We brawl in the crowd for a bit, with Taker mostly getting the better of things. Taker eventually tries to brain RVD with a chair, but RVD sprays him with a fire extinguisher to stop that and then clobbers Taker with a metal bin.
RVD heads up to the top of the exit gate and then gets a big cross body onto Taker (Thankfully on what looks to be a safe padded surface) before taking the fight up to behind the titantron for two. The fight continues onto the stage area, where Taker lawn darts RVD into the metal part surrounding the video screen before prepping for the Last Ride. RVD grabs the same metal to block it however, but ends up taking a clothesline for his efforts.
Taker tries to introduce a chair into things again, but RVD fights him off and then gets the Rolling Thunder on the stage for two. RVD dropkicks a chair into Taker’s face whilst he’s propped against the tron, but the resulting pin only gets two. Taker fires off two stiff chair shots in reply and then tries to Tombstone RVD onto the metal. RVD slips out of that but isn’t able to fight off a choke slam off the stage through some tables. The three count is academic after that.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: THE UNDERTAKER
A lot of people complained at the time because they put Taker over RVD, but they wanted to get the Hardcore Title off him so he could move into the IC Title mix, so ultimately it didn’t really do him any harm, especially as it took a big scary high spot to pin him. The match itself was a decent enough brawl but it felt rushed for the most part. We just had to have that Vince segment at the start of the show though I guess.
Ric Flair is on the phone again (Probably to a sex-line knowing him) but Chris Jericho interrupts to complain about Flair not having faith in him. Jericho says he’s going to beat The Rock for the third time tonight and will then go on to become Undisputed Champion. Flair tells him he will be The Man if he can do it and agrees to present the belts to him on Raw should he be able to win later.
WWF Women’s Title
Champ: Trish Stratus Vs Jaqueline
This was the first proper attempt to push Trish as a regular in ring wrestler and she was still finding her feet in the role. As we all know now she worked really hard at it and ended up being quite good when all was said and done, but at this stage she was very much still in the learning phase and it shows.
Jackie, being the more experienced of the two, decides to work as the heel and aggressively works Trish over with slams. Trish keeps fighting however, but whenever she gets a move or two Jackie is always able to quickly take control again. Trish eventually manages to catch Jackie with a backslide to pick up the three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TRISH STRATUS
Both women were working hard here and were clearly trying to have a good match, but Trish was still developing and it was pretty sloppy as a result. The fact they had to squeeze the whole match into a condensed form due to time constraints probably didn’t help either, as it meant they had to rush things.
Jackie offers a handshake post-match, thus turning herself back face.
We get a video recap of Vince having his face shoved up Rikishi’s arse. Did we really need this? Couldn’t we have given some of the matches more time? I will say this though, when it was time for Vince to get humiliated he at least committed to it.
Rikishi, now a smiling babyface again about a year after being revealed as the man who ran over Stone Cold Steve Austin, is at WWF New York. Rikishi says he’s ready to back dat ass up once again.
We get the video package for the main event. Kurt Angle turned on Team Alliance at Survivor Series to give Team WWF the win. Vince McMahon tried to award him the WWF Title for this deed, but a debuting Ric Flair put a stop of that and reinstated Stone Cold as the Champ. Flair then tried to book WCW Champ Rock Vs WWF Champ Stone Cold Steve Austin for this show, but Vince added Jericho and Rock to proceedings to give us the tournament.
Champ: Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Kurt Angle
Austin was back to being a face now following his failed heel turn (At the box office that is, he was entertaining in the role), although he never really turned back and was just a face again because Angle and Vince were heels and he was feuding with them. Sadly the heel turn meant that Austin just never felt the same as face once he went back, and to be honest I still wasn’t totally buying it yet as they’d teased us with him going back face in the summer and it ended up being a ruse. Really he needed to go away for a bit and then make a big glorious return as a face, but that wasn’t really on the cards.
Angle and Austin had been wrestling for most of the year, so they could have likely had a good match in their sleep by this stage. We get some technical wrestling to start, but Austin turns it into a brawl with chops and punches before flinging Angle over the top rope to the outside. Austin flings Angle shoulder first into the ring post a few times outside the ring before working it over some more back inside. Angle manages to apply the ankle lock out of nowhere, but Austin drags himself to the ropes for a rope break.
Austin back body drops Angle to the outside again, as he’s been dominating this one for the most part and Angle hasn’t really had much of a chance to really get any heat on him. As I type that Angle is able to slam Austin’s legs into the ring post a few times to finally get some sustained offence. Angle goes to the ring post Figure Four, as I ponder how great a WrestleMania XIII submission styled match between these two guys would have been. I’m not sure Angle could have been as good a gritty brawler as Bret Hart, but it still likely would have been a good fight.
Angle gets three rolling German Suplexes and makes the cover, but Austin is able to kick out at two. Seeing Austin take those suplexes on his surgically repaired neck kind of highlights why he had to eventually retire in 2003. Angle heads up top for a moonsault, but Austin moves out of the way and then mounts a comeback with the old Lou Thesz Press before following up with a spine buster for two. Austin delivers some of his own German Suplexes (although his execution isn’t quite on the level of Angle’s) eventually getting five of them for a two count.
Angle gets an undetected low blow and follows up with an Olympic Slam, but Austin is able to kick out at two. Angle goes for the Stone Cold Stunner but Austin blocks it and then counters with one of his own (Sold brilliantly by Angle) and that’s enough for him to pick up the win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
This one felt flat to me and wasn’t really on the same level of some of their other matches. The best one they probably ever had was Summer Slam 2001, which was spoilt somewhat by a terrible DQ finish but featured Austin bloodying Angle up and being all maniacal whilst Angle was gutsy and kept fighting. The work here was fine but it didn’t really excite me and, outside of a few chants, the crowd wasn’t really with it much either. It felt more like a TV main event than a pay per view one.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler muse that Kurt Angle was lacking confidence, thus causing his defeat, and Ross adds that we have now got 50% of the Austin Vs Rock main event confirmed.
Test storms into Trish Stratus’ locker room to hassle her and try to pick her up. Test has absolute negative charisma in these segments but that kind of makes them hilarious. Trish is having none of Test’s nonsense and sends him on his way.
Champ: The Rock Vs Chris Jericho
Jericho defeated Rock to win the belt back at No Mercy but would lose it back to Rock on an episode of Raw and snapped in the process, thus going heel. Jericho almost cost Team WWF the match at Survivor Series by abandoning Rock but that ultimately went unpunished and he’s currently one of the two men that Vince McMahon would like to win the whole shebang. They’re just calling it the “World Title” here, but come on, it’s the WCW Title and everyone knows it!
Rock uses the “ARM-BAR” to control Jericho in the early going, and even leapfrogs over Jericho when they do The International. Hot take, Dwayne Johnson is one heck of a natural athlete. Jericho eventually manages to get a footing in the match by dropkicking Rock off the apron to floor, where both men take turns ramming the others head into the commentary tables. Jericho gets a nice jumping back elbow from the top rope to a standing Rock back inside the ring, which gets him a two count from Earl Hebner.
Jericho works over Rock for a bit now, with Rock occasionally fighting back briefly before getting cut off again. Its basic kick-punch stuff from Jericho, but it keeps the crowd invested as they chant for Rock. Rock eventually manages to catch Jericho with a Samoan Drop for two, but Jericho replies by locking in a sleeper and they tease that Rock might go out. It sounds like there are definitely some people in the crowd who are rooting for Jericho, though it seems the majority of them are backing The Rock.
Rock of course doesn’t go out in the sleeper and stops his hand going down the third time the ref lifts it before fighting out of the hold and making a comeback. Jericho stops that with a bulldog and the Lionsault, but Rock is able to kick out at two. Jericho argues with Hebner, who is having none of that and shoves him back, so Jericho decides to deliver a suplex to Rock and head up top instead. Rock jams the ropes to crotch Jericho however and then goes to bring him down with a superplex. Jericho fights that off however and comes off the top with a cross body block, but Rock rolls through to get a two count.
Rock manages to sidestep a Jericho charge in the corner, sending Jericho careening into the ring post and out to the floor in a fantastic bump. We get some more brawling around ringside, with Jericho slingshotting Rock into the ring post and then preparing the American commentary table so that he can slam Rock through it. Jericho drags Rock onto the table and goes for a Rock Bottom, but Rock blocks the move and then DDT’s Jericho through the table to put both men out. Rock gets up first and puts Jericho back in the ring, where he looks to end things with the Rock Bottom.
Jericho fights that off however and gets a Skull Crushing Finale before following up with a back senton splash. Jericho teases that he’s going to deliver The People’s Elbow, but he takes too long and Rock is able to block it and go for the Sharpshooter. Jericho counters that into a Sharpshooter of his own however, and it looks like Rock is going to pass out from the pain. The crowd gets behind The Rock however and he finally manages to drag himself to the ropes to break the hold. Jericho simply pulls Rock back into the middle for The Walls of Jericho, but Rock counters that into an inside cradle for two.
Rock manages to hit the Rock Bottom next, but the exertion leaves both men down, which allows Vince McMahon to run down and distract the ref. Rock clocks Vince and then goes for The People’s Elbow on Jericho, but Vince provides another distraction. Rock drags Vince into the ring and clocks him to a big pop, which causes the referee to step in and try to get Vince out of the ring. With the ref distracted, Jericho punches Rock square in the Johnson Family Jewels and then delivers the Rock Bottom to pick up the surprise three count and shock the crowd.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: CHRIS JERICHO
This one started slowly but it built very well and by the end they were having a cracking match. The McMahon run in left a bit of a sour taste, as they could have had at least had Jericho win by cheating on his own rather than needing help, but it was still a very good match and held up well all these years later.
Jericho doesn’t have long to celebrate with his Title as Austin’s music hits and he limps down to the ring for the main event. However, before both men can start the match Kurt Angle runs down to attack Austin with a chair. Rock isn’t happy about how he lost either though, so he plants Jericho with a Rock Bottom to leave both men out on the mat before the match can start, ala the final fight with D-Mob in the first Def Jam Vendetta game.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Chris Jericho
Some of the fans chant for Triple H, thinking he’ll come down to make it a triple threat, which is the risk you take when you slap someone all over the marketing for a show but then don’t deliver them. Jericho recovers first from the pre-match attacks and works Austin over, but Austin replies with some punches and then goes for the Stunner. Jericho fends that off and runs to the apron, but that just allows Austin to knock him down to the floor and continue the fight out there.
The fight goes on for a while out there, with eventually Jericho setting up Austin on the Spanish commentary table for a suplex to the floor. There’s of course zero chance that Austin with his previous neck injuries is taking that bump, so he instead shoves Jericho off the table and then suplexes him on the floor. Jericho fights back inside, but Austin slingshots him into the corner to put a stop to that and then delivers a clothesline for two.
Jericho goes to a Fujiwara Arm Bar from that, as this match is lacking in any real flow and is just them doing stuff. To be honest, Jericho and Austin never really had particularly great chemistry as opponents, with Jericho always working better with Rock in my opinion. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always felt that Rock gave Jericho far much more in their matches than Austin did. Austin gets out of the hold and chops away on Jericho, but when he goes for a back body drop Jericho is able to slickly counter it into The Walls of Jericho.
Austin eventually manages to make it to the ropes to break the hold, but he’s hurting after having his lower body worked over with submission holds in consecutive matches. Jericho tries to getting a running forearm to Austin, but The Rattlesnake ducks and the ref goes down instead. This allows Jericho to punch Austin right in the Steveweisers and then deliver a Stunner. With Hebner down, Vince McMahon comes back out to the ring with Nick Patrick, who was doing a corrupt heel referee gimmick at the time.
Patrick actively encourages Jericho to pin Austin in a funny bit, but Ric Flair is not going to sanction his buffoonery and pulls Patrick out of the ring before clocking him. This allows Vince to cheap shot Flair however, which earns him a beat down from Austin. With Vince taken care off, Austin heads back into the ring to put Jericho into The Walls of Jericho. Jericho taps out, but both of the refs are still out, which allows the “fired” Booker T to make his return to the WWF to clobber Austin with one of the Title belts. With Austin out like a light, Jericho crawls over to make the cover and gets three from the recovered Hebner.
WINNER AND NEW UNDISPUTED CHAMPION: CHRIS JERICHO
This was fine for the most part, but it wasn’t especially thrilling. I think for such a momentous occasion you’d want both a better finish and a better match in all honesty.
Vince raises Jericho’s arm in the air as he celebrates with both belts, whilst Austin comes to in the ring and plots his revenge.
Both Jericho’s Title win and Title reign were plagued by him looking weak most of the time, owing mostly to the fact that he hardly ever won a big match without some form of help. Obviously it’s perfectly fine for a heel Champion to cheat in order to win matches, but an important factor is that it has to be on his own villainous merit. Ric Flair getting a roll up and putting his feet on the ropes is different to Chris Jericho being beaten and needing Booker T to bail him out with a belt shot for instance.
In first scenario the heel has done something nefarious because he’s a crafty, intelligent and resourceful villain who has found a way to win even though he’s outmatched. In the second scenario the heel is so ineffectual that he’s needed someone to rescue him in order to win. Thusly none of the victory can be attributed to him. In the first scenario the heel is still a cheating jerk but he is at least a wily Champion who can overcome stronger opponents by using his smarts. In the second scenario the heel is a lucky loser who only wins because someone helps him, which is not what you want your World Champ to be.
Can you book the IC/US Champ like that? Absolutely, because it’s not the top belt in the promotion, so it doesn’t matter as much if someone undeserving has it because it’s the secondary singles Title. Indeed, Honky Tonk Man used a similar formula to great effect and ended up becoming a successful IC Champion as a result. However, the World Champ is supposedly the top wrestler in the company, so if it’s an undeserving loser like Jericho was portrayed as then it not only makes all the top challengers look like idiots for not being able to beat him but it also hurts the belts prestige because the Champion is an undeserving goof.
This show really should have been a warning sign from the outset that Jericho’s Title reign was in trouble. If they’d at least had him beat Rock on his own then it might not have been so bad to have the main event end how it did, but because he’d already needed help to win his first match he looked like even more of a dweeb for needing it in the second match. It’s why I’ve often maintained that Jericho’s first reign was poor more for the way he was booked as opposed to how he performed in the role. If you’re going to be written to play this sort of character then Jericho did the best he could probably do with the material they gave him, but it was an uphill battle from day one. At least in AEW they were smart enough to give him a big clean win when he won the Title and also kept him from doing a job until it made sense.
The show itself was decent for the most part, with only really The Hardy and women’s matches disappointing. The Hardyz total lack of chemistry as opponents is really one of life’s great mysteries, as you’d think two brothers who had been wrestling one another since childhood would be able to have a better match (I remember some of the Mark Vs Jay Briscoe matches in ROH and CZW being great for instance) but it just wasn’t to be. The women’s match was a victim of Trish still learning the ropes and them being forced to rush things due to all the non-wrestling segments that took up so much time.
Aside from that though I liked the show overall and it’s a pretty easy watch if you have the WWE Network and are looking for something from this era to try.