The pre-credits opening video takes us back to last week’s Smackdown when Vince McMahon stacked the odds against new tag team champions Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit and forced them to defend those belts in a Four Team TLC Match. And defend them they did. In the arena, Jim Ross and Paul Heyman welcome us to the show and inform us that The Dudley’s will tackle the Holly’s in a tag team tables match tonight and that earlier today he received a letter that told him the Undertaker’s wife would be on the show tonight. That’s odd, says JR, because Taker himself isn’t scheduled to be here.
Saddledome – Calgary, ALB – TV Rating – 4.2
We start things in earnest with Vince McMahon making his way to the ring. The Canadians don’t like him and chant a rude (ish) word about him and aren’t really fooled either by Vince’s proclamations about Canadian hospitality, which proves a wise move as Vince moves onto excess taxation and the devalued dollar. Of course it’s a question of not where this is leading but which “Canadian” will interrupt him. It turns out to be Chris Jericho.
At first, his microphone doesn’t work so he has to go backstage and get another one as Vince tells the world it must be a Canadian microphone. Jericho hits back by, eventually, saying that Billionaire Vince could at least pay for a microphone that works. Jericho demands to face Stone Cold Steve Austin tonight but Vince isn’t having it. Jericho mocks Vince’s “toupee”, calls both Stephanie and Stone Cold “sluts” and then shows the footage of Vince singing “Stand Back” from the 1987 Slammy Awards. It’s brilliant. It always is. But it’s annoying enough for Vince to cede to Jericho’s request for a title shot…except it’s not a World Title match against Stone Cold but a Hardcore Title match against The Big Show.
This brings out Chris Benoit who says he can’t “stand back” and let Jericho have all the fun and that he should get the title shot against Austin tonight instead. We get more video footage of Vince singing and dancing and this leads Vince to give Benoit his own match tonight, against Rhyno. But then he randomly decides that whichever Chris impresses in their respective matches will get a shot against Austin tonight anyway. We then get more Slammy footage for good measure.
After the adverts, Howard Finkel introduces Stu Hart and other Hart Family members at ringside, which is certainly interesting in 2001. Stu looks frail and we also spy Nattie with the group too.
The Hardy’s Vs X-Pac & Justin Credible
The Hardy’s still want revenge for being dumped out of the tag team turmoil match at Judgment Day so here we are. Eddy Guerrero is at ringside with the Hardy’s and has one of their t-shirts on to show his support. Again, and stop me if you have heard this one before, it’s 2001 so this goes four minutes and there’s not a lot that they can do with that. But it’s perfectly acceptable tag team formula condensed into the allotted running time. Jeff pins X-Pac after the Swanton Bomb.
Backstage Trish is getting ready for a match when Terri interrupts her. Terri sprays Trish with hair spray, wonders aloud if Trish is going to the ring dressed like she is whilst Trish hits back by telling Terri she should be more worried about what Trish and Steve Blackman will do to her and Perry Saturn tonight.
Tajiri is pouring some tea for Commissioner Regal and then Regal asks him to hang a portrait of the Queen. When Albert barges in, Tajiri drops it in shock. Albert wants a match with Eddy Guerrero tonight. Regal grants him that wish but says that the Hardy’s and the rest of X-Factor are barred from ringside. As Albert leaves, Regal and Tajiri are astonished at the size of his head.
Chris Benoit Vs Rhyno
On paper, this could be very good. In reality, it goes three and a half minutes. The two manage to jam-pack that with intensity and you get the feeling that given another five minutes or so this could have been a mini-TV classic. It has to settle for being “ok” and Rhyno tapping out seems rather incongruous. The main question is now whether or not Benoit has impressed Vince enough to be granted that match with Austin later tonight.
Steve Blackman & Trish Stratus Vs Perry Saturn & Terri Runnels
Pre-match the commentators look back to the “hilarious” interplay between Blackman, Stratus and Grandmaster Sexay last week on Smackdown. What is actually more interesting is that Grandmaster Sexay isn’t here…because on his way to Canada for this show he was caught with drugs at the border and was promptly fired by the WWE. It was all he could expect really.
The match itself is likely to be useless as 2001 Trish hasn’t mastered the wrestling side of things yet, Terri never did and Perry Saturn is playing his loopy gimmick. It’s terrible and looks like only being noteworthy for Terri wearing that flesh-coloured outfit that made her look naked from the cheap seats. BUT there’s something here s former WCW Star Lance Storm does a run into a great pop from his fellow Canadians, nails Saturn with a superkick and leaves as Blackman gets the pin.
On the other side of the advert, we see footage of Lance Storm backstage where Shane McMahon is waiting in a limo outside. The two celebrate as Shane tells the world “it’s begun”. And so begins the Invasion… Vince isn’t happy of course and we see him screaming to his security that if any other WCW star interferes in anything tonight they’re all getting fired.
Then it’s our traditional trip to WWE New York. This time Al Snow is hosting from there and he hypes the upcoming Tough Enough show. He knows people are getting sick of “reality” shows (which is an amusing concept when watching this back in 2021) but that this will be different.
Spike Dudley and Molly Holly are holding hands backstage. It’s quite endearing. The two discuss the problems with both their families but just before they can kiss, Kurt Angle walks by to tell them what a mistake they are making. He gives them a lesson about the birds and the bees but then decides that a Dudley/Holly baby would be an embarrassment. Spike attacks him, Kurt then annihilates him.
Molly goes to tell the Dudley’s that they need to help Spike but as they follow her, Crash and Hardcore Holly happen to be walking by and take the opportunity to attack the Dudleys. After a break, the Dudley’s are recovering and despite Spike’s efforts, they believe Molly set them up. And for that, she’s going through a table.
The Big Show Vs Chris Jericho – Hardcore Title
Benoit won earlier, so can Jericho match his efforts and impress Vinnie? He has seemingly impressed Lillian Garcia as she announces him as not only a co-holder of the Tag Team titles but as Intercontinental Champion. That must be news to Kane. Jericho starts off like the proverbial house on fire but is soon grounded by the plodding offence of Show who then finds a load of bins and throws them into the ring. After attacking Jericho a bit more Show throws the steel ring steps into the ring too. They use the foreign objects a bit and then bringing the steps in proves to backfire on Show as a missile dropkick from Jericho sends Show head-first into them and a Lionsault later we have a new Hardcore Champion.
Jericho makes his way back up the ramp only to be blindsided by Rhyno who attacks him with a Gore and pins Jericho to win the title. For those keeping count, that means that in a week or so the title has gone from Rhyno to Show to Jericho to Rhyno. No one would bat an eyelid these days of course but there was a modicum of novelty to it back then even if it was completely unnecessary really.
Eddy Guerrero Vs Albert
Eddy cost X-Factor their match earlier so Albert wants revenge. Regal has banned everyone from ringside but maybe when he said “The Hardy’s” earlier he didn’t mean Lita. Because she runs out and distracts Albert as he goes for the Baldobomb. Well, that’s what the commentators say. Albert never even so much as glances at her. Still, that’s enough for Eddy to counter the Bomb into a rollup for the three.
JR and Paul Heyman are about to discuss the Dudley’s/Holly’s table match but are interrupted by a videotape of a blonde combing her hair. A voiceover (probably not Ole Anderson) explains that this is Sara, The Undertaker’s wife in the privacy of her own home. And the voice promises we’ll be seeing more of her soon. Ok then.
The Holly’s are discussing the tables match and Hardcore and Crash talk about putting a Dudley through the table., Molly doesn’t want them to do that to Spike but Hardcore says that if he gets in the way, he’s going through a table.
Benoit & Jericho are backstage discussing their matches tonight when Vince stops by to tell them they were both impressive. Austin wants to face both, he says, but that’s not going to happen. He says it’s Benoit’s match tonight. Jericho congratulates his tag team partner by also says that when Benoit wins he wants the first shot at the gold. Vince goes from here to the Commissioner’s office and tells Regal that Austin has a brilliant idea for the main event tonight but Vince isn’t going to spill the beans here and now. Regal, and we the viewers, just have to wait and see.
The Dudleys Vs The Hollys – Tables Match
Let’s be honest here. The bloodthirsty fans are only watching this in the hope that Molly Holly gets put through a table. The match itself is short (go figure) and pretty decisive in terms of a win for the Dudley’s. After the match, Molly gets in the ring to tend to her fallen cousins and so of course the Dudley’s spot her and get ready to do their worst. Spike tries to reason but it has no effect so instead he lies down on the table as his brothers set up Molly to go through it. They think about it but then put her through the table/Spike anyway. Post adverts Molly and Spike are being tended to and both are calling out for each other.
We then get a video package on Triple H. His injury, how it occurred and the surgery that has subsequently been carried out. He sees HHH visit Dr James Andrews and even see footage of the surgery. HHH puts himself over for finishing the match despite the injury and says that it’s a long road back but he will be back.
Steve Austin Vs Chris Benoit – World Heavyweight Title
Well, at least there has been a show-long storyline building up to this one. And it’s in Canada so the fans are firmly behind the challenger (as they would have been had it been Chris Jericho). And with Howard Finkel on intro duties and extra security at ringside (JR claims this is to stop any interference from any more WCW wrestlers), there is an attempt to give it a big match feel. Maybe it was the panic of HHH’s injury causing plans to be changed at short notice and so it’s understandable that a match that could have main event PPV appeal (if the WWE are serious about pushing new guys) is thrown out pretty much unheralded on Raw.
Still, it is a VERY good match until the finish. Austin makes a play of attacking Chris Benoit’s already injured ribs and seems to be relishing a somewhat different style of match/challenge from the norm here. Benoit is fired up when needs be and the fans are really rallying behind him, especially when he has Austin in the Sharpshooter. Of course giving the Canadian fans that hope, in hindsight, sets up what comes at the end. Yes, after some fantastic action, Austin slaps on the Crossface and we get the “Montreal Screwjob” finish as Vince orders the timekeeper to ring the bell and orders Finkel to announce Austin as the winner.
Post-match Vince and Austin celebrate but are blindsided by Jericho. The Chris’ double team Austin and then Y2J slaps on the Walls of Jericho. Vince tries to make a save but Benoit slaps the Crossface on him and both dastardly heels tap like crazy. The shows ends with the Canadian heroes standing tall.
This was actually a good episode of Raw. Again the undercard action is very time-constrained but that’s just a fact of life in 2001. New things are happening, there is a reason for most things and nothing drags at all. The main event is edging towards an all-time classic TV Match until the ending. AND there’s the first real signs of a WCW Invasion…All in all a show very much worth firing up.