The Rock is STILL pacing. Obviously, the Stunner he took at the end of Smackdown hasn’t solved his need to pace around the buildings WWE hold shows in. Will tonight see more Rock pacing? We’ll have to wait and see.
After highlights of the end of Smackdown and the usual intro, Jim Ross welcomes us to the show and promises that the Dudley’s will get a World Tag Team Title rematch tonight and that Rock, presuming he finishes his pacing, must face Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit in a handicap match tonight. For once though we’re kicking off the show with a match.
Pepsi Arena, Albany NY – TV Rating – 4.6
The Big Show vs Raven
Show had beaten Raven for the title at February’s No Way Out so this was a belated rematch. Raven signals his intention by making his way to the ring with a shopping trolley full of weapons. Mind you, Show no sells Raven hitting him with a trash can lid so who knows what use any of it will be.
If you’ve seen a 2001 Hardcore match that doesn’t leave the ring then you’ve seen them all.
Still, it’s not too long before Show signalling for the Chokeslam is the cue for Kane to make his way to the ring. An unofficial three-way ensues but when Kane nails Show with a flying clothesline from the top rope Raven ends up falling on top of the prone Show and picks up the win.
Although we didn’t know it at the time I guess, this was merely on the show to set up the Hardcore Title match at Mania. Most would have suspected at the time that it was getting the title off Show so that he and Kane could battle unencumbered at Mania. That wasn’t to be…
The frolics continue post-match as Kane boots Show out of the ring, no sells a Stop Sign shot from Raven who then decides discretion is the better part of valour and runs off.
Shane McMahon is here with a clipboard, so that promises fun, but before we can get to that part of the show here is the Rock, still pacing.
Jonathan Coachman catches up with him and says that Stone Cold Steve Austin’s plane has been delayed so he’s not here. Rock thinks that’s quite convenient then tells Coach to go to the airport and as soon as Austin arrives to tell him that The Rock is waiting for him at the arena.
Well, it’s certainly a creative way of keeping the two apart for most of the show.
Shane is here and talks about his dad. Vince has always done whatever he wants to whomever he wants without ever worrying about the ramifications. Well, that’s about to change because Shane has a contract in his hand just waiting for Vince’s signature. And that contract is for a match at WrestleMania! This brings out Stephanie McMahon who begs him to reconsider. Stephanie would evolve into a good promo. In early 2001 she isn’t.
Vince, accompanied by Trish of course, is next out. He reminds us that a “comatose” Linda will be watching and that she’ll be ashamed of her son. Apparently Shane has challenged him before, ages 16,18 and 24 (at least the latter age makes it seem “legit” but Vince has always won.
He sends Trish down to the ring to collect the contract and then says he’s never backed down from a challenge and isn’t about to start now. Some funky camera angles (showing and then not showing the rampway) give away the fact someone else is going to join us and it’s honorary McMahon, Triple H.
He batters Shane as Vince says he’ll never forgive Linda for giving birth to him and that he will bring Linda (in her wheelchair) to WrestleMania for a close up look at him beating Shane down.
As daft as the segment was, it at least had a clear point.
Back from the break, HHH is still battering Shane backstage presumably just because he can.
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
Hardy Boyz vs Edge & Christian
This should be the Dudley’s getting the shot but Edge & Christian make their way out to reveal that the Dudley’s aren’t here (this turning up late for shows thing is really catching) and so they’ll take the spot instead. The Hardy’s agree.
Three minutes later they were wishing they hadn’t as the surprise debut of (ECW Champion) Rhino to aid the challengers costs them the belt as a GORE knocks Jeff Hardy down and leaves him easy prey for the pin. This makes E&C the first six-time Tag Team Champions in WWE history.
The Undertaker rides into the parking lot (what is it with guys turning up late!) before we’re backstage again with a celebrating Edge & Christian. They tell Rhino to go back to the hotel and he replies in a single word, almost unintelligible fashion (a character device that thankfully was dropped almost immediately).
Undertaker is now sitting around backstage on his bike when he’s approached by William Regal and a posse of policemen.
He’s here to serve a restraining order, but it’s not on behalf of Triple H but rather Stephanie McMahon! Taker accepts it but also says he knows that it was Regal who called the police on him on Smackdown last week.
It’s pleasing to see these storyline plots are carried forward (even if they don’t actually go anywhere).
Jonathan Coachman has arrived at the airport and lets us know that Austin is due to arrive at 10 pm. Back in the arena, William Regal is in his office and Triple H walks in with a request for a match.
Regal suggests his own arch-enemy Chris Jericho but Triple H as good as laughs that off and instead says he’ll take care of Test for him. Triple H then bumps into the Big Show, laughs at his loss earlier but then commandeers him for his campaign against Taker.
Tazz vs Steven Richards
Set up from Smackdown when Tazz left the commentary box to choke out Stevie Richards just for the banter this goes all of about a minute before the Rock upgrades his pacing to running and makes his way to the ring. He smacks Richards and Val Venis before hitting Tazz with a Spinebuster and that’s that.
Rock grabs the mic and isn’t very happy about being hit with Stunners last week on two different shows and that when Austin finally shows up tonight his rear end will belong to the Rock. Which is all well and good, but I’m pretty sure Austin’s flight won’t have live Raw so this isn’t for his benefit.
Luckily, of course, Coach is at the airport. He says that Austin is due soon but he happens to see the Dudley Boyz who say that someone (wink wink) cancelled their reservations but that they have a title match to get to.
Coach tries to tell them differently but they’ve already gone.
EUROPEAN TITLE: Test vs Triple H
Back in the arena there’s some intrigue I guess because there’s no way Triple H is jobbing here, yet him with the European Title seems incongruous. If you had “second consecutive match on Raw that goes a minute with a run-in non finish” then congratulations.
I guess at least this time it makes sense that it’s The Undertaker who runs/walks in.
Stephanie reminds Taker of the restraining order, Big Show looks to attack Taker with a chair but Kane makes the save and then Kane realises the restraining order doesn’t apply to him and so he chases Stephanie through the crowd.
Taker and HHH go at it, Show tries to interfere but is battered away and once HHH has had enough Test wanders back in the ring to take a chokeslam from Taker. Back from a break, Kane has Stephanie pressed above his head at the top of a stairwell and because the camera shot is wide and out of focus it’s clearly not a person.
Still, it’s enough for William Regal to freak out and caves into the demand from Taker that he books both Kane/Big Show and Taker/HHH for Mania.
X-Pac & Justin Credible vs Steve Blackman & Grandmaster Sexay
One night after officially becoming “X-Factor” on Heat, Pac and Credible take on the odd couple of Blackman and Sexay in a match that probably would have benefitted from being cut short through a run in after a minute.
Alas, we get three and a half minutes of, well, not much before interference from Albert allows Credible to get the pin on Sexay. That’s not to denigrate the talent in the ring but it’s difficult to get over or stand out when there are three and a half minutes on offer.
After five matches totalling about eleven minutes bell to bell what we really need now is a load of promos and skits.
Actually, that might be a saving grace on this show. The Dudley’s have arrived and explained to Regal why they are late. Regal explains they’ve missed their chance but gives it to them anyway when the Dudley’s suggest that to do so would be a “fan-friendly” move.
All this means that Regal isn’t in his office when Chris Jericho pays it a visit and takes a piss in Regal’s teapot.
After another break Regal is back in his office, not knowing what the dastardly Jericho has done, and foolishly sends away Harvey Wippleman who is trying to tell him what’s happened.
The look on Regal’s face when he drinks the offending tea is worth watching this show for alone.
“That tasted a little bit tart” is his opinion.
Then it’s back in the ring for more mic work, this time from Women’s Champion Ivory. She has a cardboard cut out of Chyna with her and says that her apparent Mania challenger is as phoney as the cut-out and as dumb as a board.
She’d love to embarrass Chyna again but insist that she signs a waiver absolving Ivory from any blame when she breaks her neck again. As Ivory wrestles the cut-out she fails to see the return of the real Chyna who despite definitely not being dressed to wrestle boots her and drills her with a DDT.
When RTC run-in, Chyna is sensible enough to bail.
Still no match as we go back to Regal’s office. He now knows what happened to his tea so not only does he book himself in a match with Jericho at Mania, he also adds himself and Y2J to the evening’s main event which will now be Rock and Jericho against Angle, Benoit and Regal.
We then go back to the airport and Coach.
Austin has finally arrived and Coach passes on the message that Rock is waiting for him at the arena. Austin tells Coach that he’s just got the Rock’s rear-end in trouble and then orders Coach to grab his bags whilst he and Debra make their way to the arena.
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
Edge & Christian vs The Dudley Boyz
So for the second time tonight, the Tag Team Titles are on the line. E&C aren’t happy but when Bubba pulls Christian into the ring by his hair they don’t have much choice. This goes a mammoth five minutes which makes it the longest match of the night so far. It’s full of action and the teams do have good chemistry.
It’s all set up for the second title change courtesy of a debuting ex-ECW Superstar of the night as Spike Dudley runs in and causes enough of a distraction/nuisance for the Dudley’s to win the titles.
It’s not a great match, but it’s perfectly passable given the time limitations. And it is setting up a nice three-way match at Mania some of you might just remember…
Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit swap tactics before the main event but Benoit is less than impressed that Angle thinks the crossface is a set-up move for the Ankle Lock.
It’s less than two weeks before Mania and neither of these men has a match on the card in terms of what we’ve been told on TV.
We then cut to WWE New York where Eddie Guerrero is having a meal. JR lets us know that earlier today Eddie challenged Test to a match for the European Title at Mania.
Yes, Eddie did job to Test on Smackdown last week. I’m guessing we’re ignoring that now.
Chris Jericho & The Rock vs William Regal, Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit
Despite time constraints Chris Jericho still has time to ask Regal what his favourite letter of the alphabet is (clue, it’s the one between “o” and “q”) before we get into the action. With the talent involved in this one, it’s never less than acceptable and there are some good back and forth action going on.
The end sequence is very hot too.
The Rock is cleaning the house and about to hit the people’s elbow on Angle but Benoit smashes him and locks in the Crossface just as Angle locks in the Ankle Lock. Jericho breaks things up with a dropkick but in the melee, Regal grabs Rock’s World Title belt and smashes Jericho with it to pick up the win. The heels winning a handicap match where the odds are in their favour? That doesn’t happen every day.
Post-match the winners decide to triple-team The Rock which naturally gets the crowds chanting for Austin who obliges by running in.
Although he decks Angle first he then looks to Stunner The Rock but Angle breaks that up only to taste a Stunner of his own.
Rock looks to hit Regal with a belt-shot but winds up smacking Austin instead. Austin makes his way back up but Rock hits him with a Rock Bottom and then ends the show standing over his WrestleMania opponent.
Well if you are looking for quality grappling, this isn’t going to be the show for you. The two tag team title matches are just set up’s for a three way at the PPV so whilst they can’t be said to be boring, there’s not much to them.
Similarly the Hardcore Title match is a set up for a three-way at the PPV. Again, not boring but hardly essential. Two matches in a row mid-show go to one minute non-finishes and no-one really cares about X-Factor Vs Sexay & Blackman.
So that only leaves the main event of the show to bring us any real good wrestling action.
Still, Vince/Shane confirm their Mania bout in a decent enough promo/angle and various shenanigans make Taker/HHH, Kane/Show (apparently) and Jericho/Regal as official matches for the PPV as well as the return of Chyna to our screen making her match with Ivory officially official. Guerrero/Test is also confirmed but to considerably less effect.
So whilst this is far from a must-see episode of Raw it does enough to set-up almost half the show for Mania as well as letting The Rock finally get the upper hand in the battle of hitting finishers with Austin. And all that combined means that what could be a middling show (at best) out of context actually feels like a well thought out the night of big developments that raises the anticipation levels for Mania.
Photos courtesy of WWE.com