After an opening package that fills us in on the Rock/Kurt Angle match from Raw on Monday night (namely Steve Austin’s involvement and yet more “Debra Drama”, Michael Cole and Taz welcome us to the show with the news that Austin and Angle will meet in tonight’s main event. Which simultaneously promises at least decent TV wrestling and in all likelihood, shenanigans.
Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim CA – TV Rating – 4.3
EUROPEAN TITLE: Test vs Eddie Guerrero
It’s difficult sometimes to keep up with what is happening with the titles around this period. Not so much in terms of who has them, as title defences seem to happen at least once a week for all titles, but who gets shots and why.
Guerrero, last seen losing to Chris Benoit on Raw, gets a match here although the WWE do at least try to explain it as we are shown footage from “earlier in the day” of Eddie Guerrero walking into Commissioner Regal’s office to demand a rematch with Benoit only to be met with “let bygones be bygones” and Regal giving him a Euro title shot instead.
All of which would be fine, except for the fact that this goes three minutes, Eddie loses and it’s only really an excuse for Chris Jericho to interfere (negating the impact of Perry Saturn and Terri at ringside) to cost Eddie the match. So the main point of this match was furthering the Regal-Jericho rivalry more than anything else. Backstage, Regal doesn’t look happy.
We recap Raw and Triple H’s attack on The Undertaker (which led to Big Show attacking Kane) and then we see ‘Taker sitting on his motorbike near the vehicular entrance to the arena.
Who could he possibly be waiting for?
Thankfully for those of us who are slow on the uptake Kane wanders over and asks Taker if he’s waiting for Triple H. Kane tries to tell his brother there are better ways to handle this but Taker both laughs that Kane is trying to be the voice of reason and says he will do it his own way…on his own.
As Kane walks off he asks Taker to give HHH one for him. This sets up the idea that you have to stay tuned in to see HHH get what’s coming to him but it again annoys me that half the roster don’t appear to need to turn up in time for the start of the show.
Its sit-down interview time next as JR has a “recorded earlier in the day” chat with Steve Austin. Austin reminds everyone he won the Royal Rumble, Mania is in Texas and despite JR wondering aloud whether he still has it after his spinal surgery Austin declares he most certainly does still have it.
Of course, we have to make this about Debra, but at least Austin provides some story background to it by saying Vince did it because he hates Stone Cold. He then basically says he Stunned Rock on Raw not because they are the main event of Mania but because Rock put his wife in jeopardy.
That’s the way to hype up the biggest match of the year!
Joking aside, it’s a strong enough segment and at least wraps up well as Austin says that he doesn’t “hate” The Rock and does respect him but the title is his destiny. He invites Rock to sit down and watch him smash Angle tonight.
Undertaker is still waiting for HHH to arrive so kills some time by looking for weapon. He sets upon a lead pipe so maybe the match at Mania will be a game of Cluedo. Kevin Kelly is then summoned to Commissioner Regal’s office.
It’s so that Regal can tell Kelly to pass on a message to Chris Jericho who will know be facing the Dudley’s in a Tag Team Tables match tonight.
Kelly asks the question of who will be Jericho’s partner but Regal advises him that he won’t have one. Kelly then mentions the Undertaker situation again and Regal says that he is sure Taker is a reasonable man and he will go and talk to him as a gentleman.
THE HARDY BOYZ & BILLY GUNN vs X-PAC, JUSTIN CREDIBLE & ALBERT
They’re not quite X-Factor yet but because they formed a trio by attacking The Hardy’s on Raw X-Pac, Justin Credible and Albert officially team for the first time to take them on. Matt and Jeff are joined by Billy Gunn for no real apparent reason. Oh no, wait, Credible cost Billy a match with X-Pac on Heat so that’s why he’s here.
In a kind of “makes no real sense, but here are some guys you like doing the moves you want them to do” way this is an OK match. By the same token, it’s five minutes of not very much that goes to a double disqualification because it goes so out of control that the referee simply can’t be bothered trying to keep it going. Or something. Of course, this is a classic back yourself into a corner booking.
The Tag Champs can’t really job, even in a six-man, so close to Mania in a match that doesn’t include anyone they will be facing at the big show. You don’t particularly want to job out a new heel stable a few days after putting them together (…your writer checks his 2020 notes on Retribution…) either.
So as we can’t have the “greatest pure athlete in WWE history” jobbing either we just have a non-finish. Which is made even more pointless because it never leads to anything more.
William Regal tries to talk sense into The Undertaker next and cracks me up by properly pronouncing the “H” in Triple H. Regal warns Taker not to make him do something he doesn’t want to do but not even Regal is daft enough to push it further and backs away.
Rock is then shown pacing around a separate part of the backstage before our commentary duo talks about Shane McMahon’s return on Raw and we see that there will be YET ANOTHER sit-down interview tonight although this one will be live as Jonathan Coachman will be chatting with Shane shortly.
A limo is shown arriving at the arena and we can somehow hear that the Helmsley’s are inside. As HHH gets out he sees Taker’s bike is unattended so he pushes it over but Taker arrives daring HHH to take him out. HHH gets back in the limo so Taker smashes the window.
HHH climbs out the other side and a chase (of sorts) ensues. Suddenly the police turn up and Stephanie implores them to arrest Taker, which they do. Taker surrenders without resistance (“we’ve been here before”) but HHH sucker punches him anyway. And doesn’t get arrested for it.
Taker is taken downtown and Stephanie asks her fella what he’s going to do when Taker gets out. HHH suddenly doesn’t appear so chipper in his demeanour…
There’s yet more non-wrestling as we get the sit-down interview with Shane. As one of the world’s biggest Shane fans, I obviously found this riveting. Still, it does its job in terms of explaining why Shane returned (i.e. he’s ashamed of his father’s actions – that is drugging his wife, having an open affair with a woman half his age, handing over the business to his sister instead of him…no wait, I made that last one up) and does set up their Mania match albeit without ever actually explicitly mentioning it.
HANDICAP TABLES MATCH: Chris Jericho vs The Dudley Boyz
Michael Cole tries to sell the storyline that The Dudley’s don’t really want to do this but have to follow Commissioner Regal’s orders. It’s clear that the fans don’t really know who to cheer for in this one. They like Jericho, but the Dudley’s putting people through a table is also quite popular too.
All three put everything into a four and a half minute tables match and Jericho does get the visual of making Bubba tap to the Walls Of Jericho.
Sadly for him, that doesn’t count in this match. Eventually, the numbers game proves to be insurmountable for Jericho and he is caught with a 3D through a table to wrap this one up.
Regal is happy about the outcome, but less so when Kane barges into his office and demands a match with Triple H, TONIGHT! – Kane is angry that Regal “called the police” (at least they are attempting to explain things) on his brother and Regal again backs down and agrees to the match.
The Rock is still pacing around backstage.
Grandmaster Sexay is in his dressing room listening to WWE’s latest CD. He dances to the Rock’s song “Pie” and then asks an unseen man if they can feel the beat. He is in need of a tag team partner as Scotty 2 Hotty is inured.
He puts on the Too Cool theme and it’s revealed that it’s Steve Blackman that he’s talking to. Blackman agrees but only on the proviso that Sexay keeps his mouth shut.
This is all fine, and again is at least a way of setting up a random match on TV, but it totally ignores the fact that Sexay should be angry that Kurt Angle has put his tag team partner on the shelf, not joking around looking for a tag team partner to take on Right To Censor.
Before we can get to that match there are more promos. This time it’s Kurt Angle talking to Kevin Kelly. Angle informs us that he’s spoken to Commissioner Regal who has agreed to make the main event a No DQ match. Angle also says that should Austin not make it to WrestleMania as a result of what he does to him tonight your Olympic Hero will take his place there.
Grandmaster Sexay & Steve Blackman vs Bull Buchannan & The Goodfather
For all the “boring” accusations that are thrown at Blackman, he did actually have great comic timing and an in-ring style that was different enough to make him stand out.
I cannot sit here and type though that he and Sexay were a wonderful “odd couple” tag team with whom so much more could have been done. This is, quite frankly, a boring match.
The only high spot of note is commentator Tazz leaving his desk to stop Stevie Richards interfering and then choking him out with the Tazzmission. Blackman gets the pin on Buchannan and then refuses to dance in celebration with Sexay.
Once, however, Sexay puts the magical sunglasses on him Blackman is overcome and busts out some unconventional moves, which brought a smile to my face anyway (and was more entertaining than anything in the match itself).
Triple H vs Kane
We must be almost promoed out as we go into another match. Maybe the fact that this was only booked about ten minutes ago meant it replaced another planned sit-down interview.
For someone who was apparently so keen to be a classic heel, Triple H is once again allowed to go down the “cool” route by hugging Lemmy from Motorhead in the crowd. Kane is so annoyed with Triple H that he still stops to set his pyro off before attacking and from there we get a pretty serviceable brawl that the crowd are into.
It’s back and forth and never lets up, though it’s probably not entertaining enough to justify the presence of the Big Show coming out on to the rampway to watch, of course, he’s involved in the finish by distracting Kane and allowing HHH to get the win following a pedigree.
Not the greatest match between the two I dare say but as a segment on a TV show, it delivered enough. Post-match there’s a melee that ends with HHH kicking Kane in the nuts and Show choke-slamming him.
Kane certainly got revenge for his brother here didn’t he?
Meanwhile, The Rock is STILL pacing the backstage area.
NO DQ MATCH: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Kurt Angle
AKA Debra must be avenged!
These two would have some great matches later in the year and whilst this doesn’t quite reach those heights it’s still a great TV main event. Of course, the real problem is that unless you are totally invested in Austin avenging his wife there is no real storyline here as the focus is always going to be on Mania and Austin/Rock.
As if acknowledging this the Rock is sent out there halfway through to focus minds on what is really important. He tosses Angle back in the ring so that Kurt can attempt a pin on Austin (who Angle has clocked in the face with the ring bell) as the commentators suggest that Rock wants to screw Austin and face Angle at Mania. It’s only a two count though!
Rock joins commentary as the match continues and you can probably guess verbatim what he says without even watching the show. Of course Rock will be involved in the match again. Austin ducks an Angle chair shot which hits Rock. Rock recovers and gets on the apron where Austin inadvertently (or not) pushes Angle into him. Rock then breaks up the Ankle Lock and looks to hit the Rock Bottom on Austin. Angle breaks this up though and gets the Rock Bottom himself. Austin shows his thanks by hitting the stunner on Rock and then covers Angle for the pin. As Angle and Rock are down on the mat, Austin celebrates with a few beers as the show closes.
As ever, there’s a hell of a lot packed into two hours of TV here and you can certainly never say it’s boring. It’s also pointless to complain that 2001 WWE has a lot of talking going on, but TWO sit-down interviews in one show were perhaps one too many and maybe the show would have flowed better if some of the talk was put in-between the last two matches (for instance, the Shane interview could have been put there quite easily).
Still, Taker/HHH and Vince/Shane inch ever closer to being “official” and it’s clear that the Regal/Jericho rivalry is heading somewhere too. It does mean though that two weeks out from Mania there’s still an awful lot of good people seemingly without anything lined up for the show…
Photos courtesy of WWE.com