Allstate Arena – Chicago, Illinois – TV Rating: 4.7
The Good: It’s arguably a something and nothing opening segment which in hindsight is here to take Austin out of the equation for the evening so we can set up… well, we’ll get to that. But Stone Cold Steve Austin’s gambit, where he threatens to hijack the show and stay in the ring until he gets a piece of the nWo (who turn up but won’t go to the ring) is very entertaining. Kurt Angle comes down to the ring with security but his boasts about going to WrestleMania after his win last night lead him to get a beat down and them Austin being arrested.
There would be a little bit of overkill following it (see below) but even two decades on the in-ring confrontation between Hollywood Hulk Hogan and The Rock is simply spine-tingling. It’s two of the all-time best on the mic and two genuine LEGENDS and icons at a time when “dream matches” and confrontations weren’t ten a penny on weekly TV. They set up the match perfectly, Icon Vs Icon, and just when it seems as if Hogan might go into it as a babyface, Hall and Nash show up and the trio lay out the Rock.
There is the argument that the match itself is a big middle finger to anyone who bought the No Way Out PPV the night before, but at least the main event between Kurt Angle and Triple H with the Mania main event challengers spot on the line has meaning and is a good match in it’s own right. It does mark the third time in about four weeks the Mania title shot has been up for grabs if we include the Rumble itself but that’s wrestling for you. With Stephanie barred from ringside there’s little doubt about the winner. Even if she was there there would be no doubt. We’re not getting Angle vs Jericho at Mania are we? But it’s a good match that gives the fans the result they want and you can’t argue with that.
The Bad: A two minute Godfather/Booker T would have no chance even if the commentators weren’t acting all solemn about the fact we’ve just seen the nWo attempt to murder The Rock. Similarly although they are trying to tie up feuds and lead into others for WrestleMania, Goldust & William Regal against Edge & Rob Van Dam have no chance in three and a half minutes when the commentators are still banging on about The Rock.
The Indifferent: I mean The Hardy Boys against Lance Storm & Christian could be a great match. But this is WWE TV in 2002… So they get less than five minutes and the commentators spend 95% of the match talking about Austin’s arrest.
Kane against Mr Perfect is little more than an extended squash so it’s hard to either be too harsh on it or wax lyrical about it. A fun “Did X ever wrestle Y” trivia note, however. Perfects 2002 run isn’t anything to write home about, sadly.
Whilst the Hogan/Rock confrontation was an all-time great Raw moment, Icon Vs Icon etc, the aftermath when Rock is loaded into an ambulance and again ambushed by the nWo who proceed to get into a Semi-Truck and ram into the ambulance (presumably leaving Rock for dead) just seems like overblown nonsense. Or at the very least (and I know we’re only four weeks from Mania) something that could have been saved for another night?. In the history books, this part of the story isn’t really mentioned, but yes. The nWo tried to kill The Rock.
Overall: Essentially this is a one match and one confrontation card. Whilst that match between Angle and Trips isn’t an all-time classic it’s a very good and heated WWE TV main event. Rock/Hogan IS an all-time classic moment, at least until they leave the ring. But to be fair, who really remembers the ambulance and semi-truck nonsense? (Which is perhaps a telling reason why it wasn’t necessary). The confrontation between the two in the ring is as spellbindingly awesome to watch today as it was when it aired live twenty years ago, and leads to one of the best matches in WrestleMania history. Icon Vs Icon.