Richmond Coliseum – Richmond, VA – TV Rating – 4.1
Jim Ross and Paul Heyman welcome us to the show and say that we’ll see King of the Ring qualifiers tonight as well as a six-person match between The Dudley’s and the Holly’s. Before we can get any further though, Commissioner William Regal makes his way out and he’s not very happy at all. Sportsmanship and decency have disappeared in the WWE apparently and it’s all the fault of Benoit and Jericho. Benoit grabbed the tights to get the pinfall over Austin on Smackdown and promoted nudity as a result. Jericho put his hands on the commissioner and put him in the Walls of Jericho. As punishment for both Jericho will be in a handicap match against Rhyno and Big Show tonight, whilst Benoit will have to take on Kurt Angle…in a Steel Cage!
This still leaves what to do about the World Title match at KotR. Regal acknowledges that both Benoit and Jericho have pinfall victories over Austin in tag team matches but he dismisses this and says that whatever tomfoolery went on with “other commissioners” will not happen on his watch… Which is the cue for Mick Foley to wander out and throw out a few of his trademark catchphrases and plugs for his book. Regal is as bored with the shtick as me and tells Foley to get to the point. Mick says he’s here to introduce a special guest but Regal says he’s in charge and orders security to come and get rid of Foley and that whoever the guest was can wait outside with the other deadbeats. Which is the cue for Linda McMahon to make her way out to the ring. (JR on commentary at least informs us that Vince hasn’t arrived at the arena yet). The only saving grace here is the facial expressions of Regal.
Linda, it seems, wants to book KotR and, contrary to Regal, feels that Jericho and Benoit deserve a chance. So, Austin will defend against Benoit at KotR and then if he wins he will then defend against Jericho. Regal says that’s not fair and asks her to reconsider. As she is doing so, Foley runs footage of Austin saying he could beat both men at the same time. So following Austin’s “advice” that is the match she books. Or at least forces Regal into booking. No-one seems to wonder why that if Linda wanted to be fair to both challengers she can’t change the matches they have tonight. But this is wrestling! The segment as a whole was fairly poor beyond Regal’s comedy expressions. Still, at least we have finally got a main event for King of the Ring. 13 whole days before the PPV.
After the ad’s, Edge is having a chat with Rhyno but the Hardcore Champion seems to think Edge is after his belt. Christian walks in and is annoyed that they are acting all smug because they have qualified for the KotR tournament and he hasn’t. And that he has to go through Kane to attempt to do so. Edge tells him not to worry as he will be in his corner but Christian says that did him no good last week .
Kane Vs Christian – King of the Ring Qualifier
We saw this last week when Kane’s Intercontinental Title was on the line. At least the pre-match chatter meant there was a chance of two outcomes here. Christian winning through interference or Kane winning despite it. As it happens one of those becomes true although it’s not Edge who is the deciding factor. It’s Albert, who seems to be getting a little bit of a push these past weeks. As Edge distracts the referee, Albert runs in, hits the Baldo Bomb and Christian is just about able to drop an arm over the prone Kane to get the three and advance.
Steve Austin and Debra arrive at the building when they bump into Linda and Mick. Austin accuses the former of making his life as much of a misery as she makes Vince’s whilst Foley has a go at Austin for treating his wife badly. And whilst he can’t stop that, he’ll be dammed if Austin will treat Linda with such disrespect. Foley then informs Austin of his KotR title defence and says that Regal ratified it. Austin is livid.
The Hardy’s Vs X-Pac & Justin Credible
Matt and Jeff are both sporting singles gold after Jeff beat Jerry Lynn for the Light Heavyweight Title on Smackdown. After a couple of weeks of ignoring him we finally get a storyline explanation for the disappearance of Eddy Guerrero, via a video clip of Albert injuring him. That’s about the only note of interest of this match. We’ve seen various combos not-exactly-tearing-it-up over the past few weeks and we get the same solid but non-essential grappling that we usually get. The Hardy’s win when Jeff hits the Swanton Bomb on X-Pac. As X-Factor have incriminating photos and documents of Vince they attack the winners after the bell anyway to get some hear back. Seriously, that can be the only explanation.
William Regal is in his office telling Tajiri how to be a WWE Superstar, which essentially boils down to making the Commissioner his cups of tea. Of course this means that Austin walks in, unhappy with his KotR lot. Regal says he had no choice and that if it wasn’t for him he’d have been facing them in two separate matches. Regal blames the imminent McMahon divorce but Austin doesn’t buy it. Tajiri tries to say something so Austin batters him.
After some ad’s we see Steve Blackman going though his kendo stick routines as a warm up when Trish Stratus approaches him and offers to be in his corner for his match with Perry Saturn tonight. They then have a discussion about the technical masterpiece that was Trish Vs Terri last week in a Bra and Panties match.
Elsewhere, Benoit and Jericho and discussing KotR and do a generic “we’re both in it for ourselves” style promo. Elsewhere again Spike Dudley and Molly Holly are having a chat. It seems as if in the four days since Smackdown Spike hasn’t been able to deliver on his promise of a kiss. They both exchange worries about the upcoming tag match and then look about to kiss only for Bubba Ray to pull Spike away.
There’s been enough time in all this non-wrestling stuff for Austin to find Vince and complain to him about Linda booking the Triple Threat match. It’s a conspiracy and he’s holding Vince responsible. We think Austin is about to punch him but instead he hugs him.
Chris Jericho Vs Rhyno & The Big Show
It’s 2001 so Show is once again being used as a “punishment” opponent despite the fact that he rarely delivers the battering that management/the Commissioner are looking for. Rhyno tilts the odds against Jericho even further and what follows, well, isn’t very good at all. It’s all a bit plodding as Jericho takes a sustained beating, with only momentary moments on offense. He does attempt the Walls of Jericho on both but it is stopped both times. Show chokeslams Jericho, Rhyno Gores Show for some reason and then gets the pin on Jericho. So two weeks before challenging for the World Title on PPV, Jericho gets beaten up by two monsters and then is pinned cleanly by a mid-carder. This is really getting him ready for KotR isn’t it?
Shane McMahon is lurking around backstage for no apparent reason. Thankfully for viewers he runs into Kane. He tells Kane it was a shame that Albert interfered in his match earlier and then thanks Kane for saving him from the Undertaker last week. He points the finger at Kurt Angle so we know that our Olympic Hero is in for a battering later in the show.
Michael Cole is interviewing Rhyno, asking why he gored The Big Show earlier in the night. Rhyno responds by pointing out he has beaten Chris Jericho three times and therefore if Jericho wins the title at KotR he should be the first challenger in line. You have to admire his positivity if nothing else. Chris Jericho is then shown being treated for concussion (which kind of jars when no-one seems to care about Perry Saturn aside from Terri and Dean Malenko) only for Austin to storm in and give him another beating. There is keeping your new super heel strong and then there’s utterly decimating an upcoming PPV headliner who needs all the positive booking you can muster.
Here comes Kurt Angle who goes the cheap (but funny) heat route and then talks about how he will beat Benoit tonight, beat Shane at KotR and win the tournament as well. He also shows footage of his induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. All of which is largely irrelevant because we all know Taker is showing up. For once Taker actually stops to listen to the accused but once Angle says that he wouldn’t stalk Sara because he doesn’t even find her attractive Taker batters him. Then the Stalker shows some more videos on the Titan Tron, although the stalker apparently can’t find Sara so suggests Taker has put her in hiding. This causes Taker to rush back up the ramp and whilst Angle recovers from his beating, Shane runs in and hits him with the Olympic Slam before running back out through the crowd.
Perry Saturn Vs Steve Blackman – King of the Ring Qualifier
Case in point about Perry Saturn. He’s clearly (storyline wise) suffering head trauma but here he is still wrestling. Maybe his troubles are the reason behind this dull, boring match. Fans are more interested in the Trish/Terri nonsense at ringside. Saturn wins in two minutes. Trish and Terri catfight afterwards and then Blackman whacks Saturn across the head with a kendo stick. Because you would, wouldn’t you.
There’s YET MORE Steve Austin tonight as Debra decides the best way to calm him down is to offer him carrots and broccoli. I mean genuinely, I am not making that up. Austin refuses the veggies then smashes the platter against the wall. We then go to Hardcore and Crash Holly warming up for their match when Molly comes along and asks them not to hurt Spike. Hardcore tells her the only way Spike will survive tonight is if Molly herself pins him. I’m not quite sure what they are getting at there.
William Regal is in his office again when he is interrupted by Terri Runnels and Dean Malenko. They finally acknowledge that repeated shots to the head have sent Perry nuts. Terri asks for Smackdown off since they have a double date set up to try and ease his mind. Regal agrees. Saturn comes in and mumbles something about Dragons. As he walks off Malenko tells Regal “this is what I have to live with”. Sounds like a shoot to me.
The Dudley’s Vs The Holly’s
It seems like I’ve been watching a combination of this match for the last thirteen years by this point. This is probably the first time it’s been presented as a six-person match. The problem is that there’s been so many matches with so many conclusive endings that who really cares about them going at it again. They tease Spike and Molly fighting but neither want to do it. In the end the Dudley’s win after hitting the 3D on Crash. Worryingly we think this might not be over even now as Hardcore carries on the fight afterwards but it turns out it’s only an excuse for the other four to be out of action as Spike and Molly finally get to share that kiss. The fans popped for it, so as daft at the storyline may seem it was certainly “over”.
It’s been at least three hours since we had an update on Triple H so we get ANOTHER special look at his surgery and commencing rehabilitation. We then cut to WWE New York where Test is on hosting duties. He puts over Shane McMahon and says that if the rumours about WCW are true then Test himself may want a piece of that action. Finally, before the main event we get recaps of everything Stone Cold Steve Austin has been up to tonight.
Chris Benoit Vs Kurt Angle – Cage Match
Is it panic that the Triple H injury has thrown everything into disarray? Is it a fear that Austin might still be cheered? Either way, he’s been all over the show tonight and comes down to ringside to join in on the commentary. I guess we at least know now that Benoit/Angle isn’t going to a clean finish so we don’t have to be disappointed later. Pinfalls and submissions can win this one as well as climbing out of the cage. As you’d expect, it’s pretty great stuff from both men and they whack each other all over the place. This was Suplex City before Suplex City was a thing. Of course, the “creative” ending undoes some of the hard work.
It’s difficult to watch knowing what we know now but Benoit’s diving headbutt from the top of the cage (after he can’t climb out because Austin stops him – so at least there’s a storyline credible reason for the move) is mightily impressive. That should be enough for the pin but we have to make sure Austin is involved so Benoit goes to walk out of the cage only for Austin to hold it shut. Benoit dropkicks the door and Austin is sent flying. Benoit counters the Anklelock with an Enzuigiri but when he goes for the door Austin smashes it in his face. Angle can then climb over the cage for the win. A great match but why Benoit couldn’t win is beyond me.
This is, on the whole, a very mediocre show. Meandering in-ring promos that achieve very little (and what they do achieve could have been more effectively done in a quarter of the time) and largely boring and dull matches do not make for a great show at all. The two challengers for the World Title at a PPV that is less than two weeks away are made to look like no-hopers and whilst you can argue all day about “building” a storyline there is no agreeable reason to jobbing them both out here. Yes, the main event match is very good, but even that is slightly spoiled by the shenanigans at the end. It’s worth watching that match, it’s not worth watching much else from the show.