WWE: Retro Review | Raw is War 21/05/01 | Triple H’s Last Stand in 2001

FirStar Compaq Center – San Jose, CA – TV Rating – 4.2

Raw is War! We’re one night removed from Judgment Day and we’re on the road to King Of The Ring. There’s no intro or pyro tonight as we’re straight to Stone Cold Steve Austin making his way to the ring to address his brutal battle with The Undertaker in their No Holds Barred match last night. Austin poses and brags about being a fighting champion whilst also saying that Taker will not be getting any more rematches.  He demands respect from the crowd and keeps reminding us of his name.  It’s not really going anywhere so it’s a matter of who will be interrupting him.  It’s none other than Chris Jericho. 

Austin is surprised that Y2J would dare interrupt him but Jericho tells him to shut the hell up.  Jericho doesn’t care about conspiracy theories and why Austin joined forces with Vince McMahon.  Austin is nothing other than a jackass and is now more of a “slut” than Stephanie.  Because that’s what gets babyfaces over in 2001.  Jericho says he and Benoit will beat Austin & HHH for the tag titles tonight and then rushes the ring.  HHH runs in but this is balanced out by Benoit doing the same.  It’s your standard “set up the main event” intro, although it may be redundant by the fact the match was set up the previous night at Judgment Day. 

Backstage after the break Austin and HHH are complaining about what has just happened to Vince McMahon.  Kurt Angle is then shown arriving at the arena.  This is a good sign because only true main event players are allowed to show up late judging by ever single show the WWE have done so far in 2001 so he must be in the good books. 

Rhyno Vs The Big Show – Hardcore Title

These two were two thirds of the Hardcore Title at Judgment Day the night before and there’s no logical reason why Show should get a rematch of any sorts here given his loss the previous night.  Sadly my worst fears are confirmed in this one.  Despite Rhyno beating him and Test the night before and surviving the odds he gets beat in a singles match here.  It’s your standard WWE Hardcore match other than Rhyno attempting some psychology by targeting Show’s arm which Show completely neglects to sell save for a brief moment after the match. 

After a promotional reminder that The Rock, The Hardy’s and Lita are featured in Rolling Stone Magazine, Kurt Angle is backstage talking to some random about his Olympic medal celebration re-enactment schedule for tonight and how tonight’s “second class” city will now have something to talk about for years to come.

We’re then with the APA backstage, playing cards, when Terri Runnels interrupts and asks why they aren’t warming up for their match with the Radicalz tonight.  They don’t like it warm, which is the cue for Terri to pour beer all over herself.  It’s a set up though as the distraction allows Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn to attack. 

Steve Austin is then shown walking into his locker room but discovers that Debra isn’t there.  Oh, what could this all mean?

We’re still not getting any wrestling as now we’re with Spike Dudley and Molly Holly.  Molly apologies for her Cousins interference last night in the Tag Team Turmoil match.   Although the Dudley’s and the Holly’s are fighting tonight neither wants that to become a problem.  Spike presents Molly with a “good luck” present in the form of a pair of taped-up Dudley glasses.  Romance is in the air.

The Acolytes Vs Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn

Bradshaw and Faarooq destroyed their opponents last night in rapid order during the Tag Team Turmoil match last night so who knows why Saturn and Malenko want another go.  They at least last longer tonight and put up a bit more of a fight but it’s not enough to get them anywhere near the win. Saturn takes some stiff bumps right on his head at the end of the match and after the loss appears to be out cold.  If I didn’t know any better I’d be tempted to say this was some form of “receipt” for something, but it’s probably just an angle.  Probably. 

Backstage Steve Austin walks up to our Commissioner Regal and asks him if he’s seen Debra.  Regal hasn’t but does mention that The Undertaker is here tonight and he does hope that Taker hasn’t abducted her.  Austin doesn’t appear to have thought of this possibility…

Kurt Angle is discussing his celebration with Edge & Christian.  They do not meet his suggestion that they can stand in the silver and bronze medal positions along side him with any great desire.  Obliviously, Angle thinks it’s just a case of them allowing him to stand in the spotlight alone.

Matt Hardy Vs X-Pac – European Title

At least this shakedown from last night’s Tag Team Turmoil has some logic as X-Pac pinned Matt Hardy during that match and now wants to repeat this for Matt’s European Title.  It’s a perfectly acceptable TV match and the extra bodies at ringside (Jeff, Lita, Albert, Justin Credible) at least means that there is genuine doubt as to who may walk away the winner. In the end it’s actually Eddy Guerrero who is the difference maker.  He runs in, blindsides X-Pac and throws him into the ring where Matt hits the Twist of Fate to retain.  Eddy seems pleased with his night’s work. 

Perry Saturn is being checked out by EMT’s backstage so the beating was all storyline.  Longer-term fans will know what is coming next in terms of Saturn’s character when they hear him utter the words “you’re welcome”.

Kurt Angle’s Olympic ceremony is next up and the ring is set up with a medal podium and American flags.  Once again we’ve got a segment that only exists for someone to interrupt so Angle waffles on about being a hero, a champion and a whole load of other stuff before the Olympic theme plays and confetti reigns down from the ceiling. Angle is almost in tears before I start to cry when Shane McMahon interrupts.  Shane waffles on about WCW and then insults Angle who has had enough and smashes him. 

Steve Austin is again backstage and is going to his locker-room.  This time Debra is there and says she had to go and get a coffee on the other side of the arena.  It’s either an arena that’s three miles wide or she’s a very slow walker.  Austin says he was worried Taker had kidnapped her and right on cue he turns up.  It’s now personal after Austin brought Sara into things.  Instead of a brawl, Taker walks away after warning Austin to leave his family out of things.  After he’s gone, Austin tells Debra that if she hadn’t been there he’d have beaten up Taker but that he didn’t want to put her at risk. 

We then see Shane McMahon being escorted from the arena by two security guards.  He’s showing no ill effects from being beaten up by Angle a few minutes earlier. 

Dudley Boys Vs Hardcore & Crash Holly

More Tag Team Turmoil fall out here as last night the Holly’s caused the elimination of The Dudley’s and so D’von and Bubba Ray want their revenge.  Not for the first or last time tonight we get perfectly acceptable TV wrestling, with some good back and forth action before the creative, feud extending finish.  Molly begs D’Von not to “get the tables”, Spike gets Molly out of the way but his subsequent argument with D’Von leaves Crash the opportunity to dropkick a table into both of them.  Crash tries to introduce the ringbell into proceedings but Molly now stops him.  Hardcore Holly grabs it anyway, sloshes Bubba and gets the pin. Crash and Hardcore are happy, Molly less so.

Vince is apologising to Kurt Angle for Shane’s earlier interruption but he’s not mad at Kurt for putting Shane in the ankle-lock, He’s mad that Angle didn’t break his sons ankle.  After a break the Dudley’s are holding a pow-wow and they’re not happy at Molly Holly costing them the match.  Spike insists she didn’t mean it but Bubba is adamant.  And he tells Spike he knows what must happen next.  Spike asks him to reconsider, but Bubba says that Molly has to go through a table. 

We’re not down with the backstage pow-wow’s as we’re with the Hardy’s and Lita who are joined by Eddy Guerrero.  There’s some generic banter between the parties, with Eddy insisting Jeff can trust him in their upcoming tag team match.  We then see the two Chris’ talking strategy (presumably) for their main event match and then we see Austin and HHH having a little discussion of their own.  The two are somewhat at odds as HHH blames Austin for costing him the IC title last night but points out that he saved Austin from losing his. 

There’s STILL no time for wrestling as we go to WWF New York where Stevie Richards promises an announcement about the furure of Right To Censor but can’t give it as Paul Heyman interrupts him on commentary and basically says no-one cares.  He might have a point. 

Eddy Guerrero & Jeff Hardy Vs Edge & Christian

Ok so the match goes a whole four minutes and change but it’s a nice, solid four minutes and change.  There’s surprisingly little bickering and it seems as if, at this stage, the Hardy’s can trust Eddy.  There’s some good back and forth action and some nice tag team work before a little bit of interference from Lita allows Eddy to hit Christian with a Sunset Flip off the top for the 1-2-3.  Lita and Jeff even allow Eddy to join in their winning celebrations. 

Kane Vs Kurt Angle – Intercontinental Title

This is Angle’s reward for taking out Shane McMahon earlier in the evening, even if he seems to realise that it’s not that much of a reward given the mood Kane is in.  Angle tries to work an actual, you know, wrestling match with Kane by (logically) working on the already injured arm of Kane.  It’s a fine idea and works well until they kind of forget all about it a couple of minutes later.  Kane rallies, Angle rallies and then Shane McMahon does a run in and attack Angle at ringside.  He then tosses Angle back in the ring and a chokeslam later Kane has retained.  The abiding question amongst all this is that Vince isn’t very good at choosing a security team if Shane can waltz back into the arena with such ease. 

Backstage again and just before their main event, Benoit & Jericho are having another pow-wow.  Benoit mentions all their sacrifices to get to this point and name checks Stu Hart’s dungeon, their time in Japan, Mexico and Europe and even what they had to put up with “down south”.  Benoit say this is their night to show what they are about.  Jericho reminds Benoit that this is their one shot so they have to make it count. 

Steve Austin & Triple H Vs Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho – Tag Team Titles

Of course, twenty years on this match is (in)famous due to the fact that this is THE match where Triple H tore his quad but gustily carried on despite the immense pain to get to the finish.  How different 2001 might have been without the injury that kept HHH sidelined for the rest of the year.  But that’s another story for another time. Triple Hs guys and determination here is insane.

What perhaps isn’t as well remembered is that it is a really good match. IT’S A REALLY good match.  Without the injury, it might have been even better, no matter how valiantly HHH battled on. 

I’m annoyed again that WORLD CHAMPION Steve Austin enters first, before HHH.  It’s made worse in that sense that the challengers enter second.  But anyway.  Austin and Jericho start things off with some good back and forth action before Benoit and HHH take over.  There are some cool spots and some nice reversals at play here and the champions are throwing everything they can at the challengers.  Even a chair shot to Benoit can’t put him down though, much to the champs astonishment, as the challengers continually do enough to keep their heads above water. 

The epic action continues and the presentation is such that these are two teams of equals.  There’s no subtle burial going on here.  Of course just as things are REALLY picking up, HHH nips into the ring to break up the Walls of Jericho and suffers his injury. 

It’s a testament to Triple Hs guys, that you really have to look for the signs (a casual viewer might miss it, such as the way that HHH handles it) and he carries on, even taking the Walls of Jericho on the commentary table.  Back in the ring, it seems over when Austin hits the Stunner on Benoit but Jericho drags the referee away.  HHH limps back into the ring with the sledgehammer only to inadvertently hit Austin and Jericho makes the pin for the 1-2-3. 

You can say a lot about HHH (and Austin for that matter) but they put the challengers over the right way here.  It was a great story, with the champions being dominant at times but the challengers withstanding all that was thrown at them.  Of course with the injury to HHH who knows where this would have led if things had gone to plan in that respect.  But we can’t allow that to lessen the memory of a fantastic Raw main event and much welcomed title change. 

Overall this is a solid episode of Raw.  The main event is a TV classic and it’s ably backed up by a number of solid TV matches that if not “must see” are certainly “watchable” in the context of a weekly Raw show.   

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