WWE: Retro Review | Raw is War 02/07/2001 | The Booker Bagwell Brawl

Tacoma Dome – Tacoma, WA | TV Rating – 4.6

After a highlights package of the past week’s wCw invasion we kick the show off with…yes…a Vince McMahon promo.  Of course we do.  He says that July 22nd will be an historic night because WWE will annihilate wCw at the Invasion PPV before winding up the crowd with some localized digs.  He starts to tell the world that Booker T is a cheat but is interrupted by Kurt Angle who is here for no apparent reason but does manage to say that Booker T made Stone Cold Steve Austin look a fool last week. 

Naturally that’s the cue for Austin to make his way out but before he can get too far into his comeback Angle says that no-one need to worry as he will make sure Booker T gets nowhere near Austin or Vince ever again.  Austin doesn’t like the idea of this as he’s tough enough to handle his own matters. He doesn’t want Angle around as he thinks he’s a jackass.  Angle thinks he’s a hero.  They look like they might come to blows but instead Angle hugs Vince, Austin hugs Vince and then they start trading light shoves. 

All this meandering comes to a halt when Shane McMahon makes an entrance.  He hasn’t got Vince’s money, power or stroke but for some unknown reason he does have the power to make tonight’s Raw main event.  And it’s going to be a wCw title match as Booker T will defend against…Buff Bagwell.  This signals the death knell for wCw as a going concern.  But we’ll get to that later. 

Backstage the Acolytes are reviewing footage from Smackdown, trying to find out how Booker T could get into the arena after they had all entrances covered.  Faarooq points out Shane thanked someone on the phone for the “tip off” and they conclude there must be a mole in the WWE camp.  And they are going to root him out. 

Albert Vs The Undertaker – Intercontinental Title

Look, storyline wise you can argue it makes sense.  Albert beat Kane for the title on SD thanks to the help of Diamond Dallas Page.  But it just doesn’t seem right that Taker is challenging for this title and as you can’t see him actually winning it all it really does is flag up that we’re going to get shenanigans.  Taker is about to win, presumably, with the Last Ride when DDP, shock horror I know, interferes and smacks Taker with a chair for the DQ. 

Post match DDP lays out Taker with a Diamond Cutter but as Taker is down this means Sara once again has to show no fear of one of wCw’s stop stars and she gets in Page’s face after shoving him from behind.  The distraction means Page doesn’t see Kane sneaking up on him and he gets a beating, followed up by a low blow from Sara.  Presumably Albert doesn’t watch WWE TV as he attacks Taker, allowing DDP to escape.  Still he pays for that by getting a Brothers of Destruction beating. 

Torrie Wilson is backstage when she bumps into Howard Finkel.  Well, not literally.  The Fink is pleased to see her.  She wants to know where Vince’s office is and Fink obliges. 

Crash Holly Vs Molly Holly

After the Holly-Dudley connection beat Crash and Jackie on Smackdown, Crash has decided he wants a singles match with Molly.  The two have a decent enough match that goes all of two minutes and which Crash loses after Jackie snaps Crash’s head onto the ropes.  It’s clearly not an accident but post match she tries to apologise to Crash for it.  Or maybe that apology was just a ruse as she hits him with a Tornado DDT and walks off.

The Austins, Vince and Kurt are backstage with Debra trying to tell everyone they should get along.  In comes Torrie Wilson and she wants to finish her discussions with Vince over a WWE contract. Vince says now would be a good time and decides to step out so as not to embarrass anyone.  Once they’ve left Austin tells Angle that Vince can’t talk with him around but Angle says, via a not so subtle nod of the head, that it’s Debra who Vince can’t discuss business with. 

Christian and Edge have the latest in their series of chats backstage next.  Christian thinks that if he had faced Angle in the Finals instead of the Semi’s at KotR he would have won the tournament.  Edge says the fact is that it didn’t.  Christian says he’s happy for his brother though and he’s going to win the Light Heavyweight Title tonight so they both have gold. 

William Regal is warning Tajiri about the “Worm” when he is interrupted by the Dudley’s.  They demand to know why they have been put in a match with Chris Jericho tonight when they are the tag team champions. It’s punishment for Jericho not winning the World Title at KotR and therefore NOT defecting with it to wCw.  Or something.  Regal invokes Winston Churchill but the Dudley’s aren’t bothered.  So Regal just tells them to put Jericho through a table.  “All you had to do was ask” is Bubba’s reply.

The Acolytes are elsewhere, meeting with Hardcore Holly who insists that he isn’t the mole (who has been letting wCw guys into WWE arena’s) they are looking for.  Holly suggests that they consider who WASN’T there when the WWE mid-card annihilated wCw last week. 

Still no wrestling, as Torrie Wilson and Vince McMahon are holding their “business meeting” in a shower.  Thankfully fully clothed.  Torrie wants to get together with Vince at the weekend to show just how much she wants a WWE contract.  Just as the two start to, erm, get to know each other Stone Cold interrupts and asks why they are conducting a meeting in a shower.  Vince suggests he and Torrie find a more private place to continue discussions…

Scotty 2 Hotty Vs Tajiri

What’s this?  Interrupting “Raw is Backstage Promos” with a match?  Tajiri wants revenge after Scotty pinned him in the tag team match on Smackdown so there is a reason for this match at least.  As you might expect the match is fine but goes less than three minutes. The end comes when Scotty is going for the Worm but some referee distraction from Regal allows Tajiri to shoot the mist and a Buzzsaw kick later it’s all over. 

Vince and Torrie are no in a mop closet.  Or “Shangri-La” as Vince puts it.  Wouldn’t you know but just at they are getting intimate this time it is Kurt Angle who interrupts, wondering what the two of them are doing in a mop closet.  Torrie and Vince leave to find yet somewhere else (they wouldn’t have had this problem if they’d gone to the local Marriot) as Angle thinks that Torrie likes him. 

Booker T is trying to get a drink from a vending machine backstage.  I like the randomness of this, as in he’s wCw so Vince refuses to provide catering for them.  Test walks by and introduces himself.  Booker says Shane has talked a lot about Test and asks if he would consider joining wCw.  Test says it would depend on the competition and the money but that one day he might be challenging for Booker’s world title.

Chris Jericho Vs The Dudley’s – Handicap Match

The Dudley’s attack straight from the beginning but for all the odds that are stacked against him, Jericho does remarkably well throughout the match.  Even with the numbers disadvantage, Jericho spends a lot of time in control and never really seems in any great danger.  Despite that he needs a run-in from Spike Dudley to really turn the match in his favour and after Spike hits a great Dudley Dawg on Bubba ONTO D’Von, Jericho hits the Lionsault and gets the win.

Vince and Torrie are now in a restroom but after Torrie suggests that Vince’s cologne is a little strong for her they are interrupted by Perry Saturn, who has just finished…well yeah.  Yet again the loving couple have to go elsewhere to continue their “meeting”.

Probably because giving HHH all the packages over his injury, inviting sympathy for the heel you know, set a precedent Chris Benoit FINALLY gets a video package for his neck injury.  It’s an eerie watch in 2021 given the presence of his wife Nancy.  So we’ll just say that the short video package (as opposed to the three hundred long ones for HHH) see Dr Mark Youngblood explain the damage to the neck, what surgery is needed and that Benoit will be out for the rest of the year at least.

X-Pac Vs Christian – Light Heavyweight Title

Sometimes it seems as if X-Pac is on every show I watch.  Then I realise he probably is.  E&C beat X-Pac and Billy Gunn on Smackdown so even though it was Edge who pinned Pac there, there is some logic to Christian getting this match.  Edge is at ringside so you kind of guess there may be some inadvertent shenanigans.  And indeed, as Edge attempts to nullify the interference of Justin Credible he causes the referee to miss a Christian pin-fall attempt.  When Christian goes over to ask Edge what he’s doing this allows X-Pac to smash Christian with the title belt and get the win. 

The Acolytes are holding another meeting backstage.  They note that Test was missing when they all beat up Palumbo & O’Haire and when they chased Booker T out of the arena last week.  Ergo, Test is the traitor.  They ask referee Jack Doan where they can find him and he says he’s getting ready for his upcoming match.  He does say however that he saw Test with Booker T earlier.  This is all Bradshaw and Faarooq need to hear.  Emergency meeting time.

Tazz is at WWE New York and he doesn’t look happy at all. 

Rhyno Vs Test

Well according to JR, the winner of this gets to meet Mike Awesome for the Hardcore Title at Invasion.  Of course we’re all waiting for the WWE mid-card to run-in.  And that they do.  As Hardcore Holly & Bull Buchannan distract the referee, the Acolytes hop in and destroy Test and a Gore later Rhyno has picked up the win.  Post-match Test gets another big beating. 

Matt Hardy & Lita Vs The Big Show & Trish Stratus

I’m not sure if the rules should be that it’s men vs men and women vs women but they ignore that in parts during this one.  Sadly there’s so much that goes wrong with this match that it’s impossible to fully get into it.  This is even worse when Trish drops down too early when taking the Twist of Fate from Lita and then Lita merely grazing Trish with the subsequent moonsault for the win.  Not one for the Trish Vs Lita highlight reel that’s for sure.

Vince and Torrie are still trying to find a private place for their “meeting” when Vince belatedly suggests that it might be better to wait until the show is over.  Torrie though thinks she has an idea of a place that might work and Vince certainly approves of the idea judging by the look in his eyes. 

Shane McMahon is walking backstage (gee, it’s been too long since people were randomly walking around backstage) and he bumps into Buff Bagwell.  He wishes him luck but Buff is “The Stuff” and tells Shane he doesn’t need luck.  The mixture of amusement/bemusement on Shane’s face would appear to sum up the general reaction to Bagwell backstage when he arrived in WWE. 

The Acolytes are celebrating Test’s beating with their mid-card army.  Sgt Slaughter comes in though and says they’ve got it wrong.  Test was with him last week and in any case didn’t have a cell phone with him so couldn’t have tipped off Shane.  The Acolytes don’t seem that distressed to be honest.

Back in the arena we see Jim Ross and Paul Heyman leaving their desk as the remainder of the show is being turned over to wCw.  Shane O’Mac walks out and introduces Stacy Kiebler as the ring announcer and Scott Hudson & Arn Anderson as the commentators.  Stacy introduces Nick Patrick as the referee.  Before she can do any more, Regal comes out and says that whilst there may be a wCw match tonight, Shane doesn’t have to be a part of it and so Regal orders security to escort him out of the building.  In one of the funniest things ever said on WWE TV, Shane says he doesn’t have a problem with it because he “doesn’t need to be in the spotlight”.  Ok, Shane, ok.

Booker T Vs Buff Bagwell – WCW World Heavyweight Title

I mean this is pretty historic.  The wCw World Title, on the line in the main event of Monday Night Raw.  I mean, wow,  And of course it is a match that went down in history…just not for the reasons that people might have hoped.  It was a turning point in the history of the WWE for sure, but not in a good way.  Once this night was over all thoughts of WCW as a separate touring brand were dead and gone.  But we’ll get to that in a bit.

The match itself is awful.  Booker T is showing a few signs of ring-rust, which is understandable.  If he was in there with a decent opponent then we could have got over that.  But he’s in there with Buff Bagwell.  The fans hate it.  We can see some leaving before things even really start, those who stay quickly start chanting “boring” before moving on to “this match sucks”.  It’s an unmitigated disaster.  To the level that the Angle/Austin run-in is welcomed, even though we know what it means is coming.  They attack Booker and Nick Patrick has no option but to call for the bell. 

The assault continues and Buff actually joins in to make it 3-on-1.  They fight their way backstage.

When we cut to the back though we find Vince and Torrie in a Laundry room.  Vince tells Torrie she’s going to be a big star, takes of his wedding ring and then is undressed by Torrie.  She promises him a surprise if he closes his eyes but once he opens them again he is face to face with his wife Linda.  Oh no! Vince tries to explain but Linda just walks away. 

We then finish with the trio still beating on Booker T and throwing him out of the building to once again hammer home WWE’s dominance over wCw.  Bagwell celebrates with his new allies, only to be battered and thrown out of the building as well.  And that’s it. 

The wCw “Invasion” storyline has been poured over many times and the mistakes and errors with it are beyond question.  This night perhaps is infamous for it’s part in killing the dream of a WWE Vs wCw war in one night.  Perhaps in desperation, angles that could have been spread out over weeks and months are happening in the space of two hours.  The only two real “stars” that have made the journey from wCw (Booker and DDP) are constantly made to look weak and are battered.  The mid-card of WWE has already shown their dominance over the past few weeks too. 

And then there is the main event.  Whilst it’s easy to lay the blame at the WWE bookers for what happened in 2001 there is one fact that is often overlooked.  WWE fans loved it when their boys and girls gave the opposition a beating.  The fans here have ZERO interest in seeing Booker T Vs Bagwell and they are quick to let everyone know.  Hindsight is wonderful, but relaunching wCw in such a haphazard fashion in staunch WWE territory and with one half of the match being named Bagwell was never going to work. 

This is far from a brilliant episode of Raw.  The in-ring action never really gets above mediocre and is often boring.  The main event is one of the biggest busts in WWE history.  Far too much time is given to Vince and Torrie too (and doesn’t really at all matter in terms of making any hype for Invasion).  Yet in some ways, this show is required viewing for anyone with an interest in looking at how the Invasion storyline went so wrong (and I say that as someone who, against most popular opinion, doesn’t think it was THAT bad in one sense, no matter how big it should have been).  From that point of view, at least, it’s a fascinating historical show. 

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