Twenty years ago the WWE and WCW World Titles were set to be “unified” for the first time ever. Matthew Roberts takes his latest trip in the TWM Time Machine to look back at Vengeance 2001.
The build-up to this show has seen me sit through some of the worst episodes of Raw and Smackdown imaginable. You young kids who watch in 2021 and complain about everything you see don’t know how lucky you are. Even the “can’t miss” unification tournament happening has become less “must see” as the weeks have gone on. Austin was too busy with Booker T, and The Rock was shoving Vince McMahons face up the returning Rikishi’s backside! It’s almost enough to make you long for the InVasion being back… WELCOME TO VENGEANCE 2001!
We kick things off with Christian and Test taking on Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert. Or, as the latter is now known, the “Hip Hop Hippo”. And you thought things couldn’t get worse after being in the X-Factor stable… The match is your typical something and nothing opener that because it’s the opener gets some decent reactions from the crowd but is nevertheless distinctly average and basic tag team formula.
The Intercontinental Title at Vengeance 2001 between Edge & William Regal that follows isn’t much better. Regal and Edge don’t really have compatible styles to begin with (and Edge is still very much learning the trade still at this point in his career) and the focus on the “Power of the Punch” brass knuckles will be pleasingly old school to some and a complete distraction to other viewers.
Up next is the battle of the Hardy’s as Matt meets Jeff in a match refereed by Lita. This all really started at Survivor Series when Jeff selfishly cost his team the tag titles there though it’s Matt who becomes the heel for taking objection to this (and also demanding Lita picks a side, I guess). It’s actually a decent storyline up to a point but the problem seems to be that the fans don’t really want to see the two go at it and are probably mindful of the mild disappointment of the year other “brother vs. brother” feud between Edge & Christian. Naturally Lita misses Matt’s foot being on the ropes when Jeff makes the match-winning pin so this was only ever intended as a destination along the route. Which became pointless when the Hardy’s were taken off TV a couple of weeks later (due to some backstage “issues”) and when they came back re-united as if nothing had ever happened.
The Tag Team Titles match between The Dudley’s and Big Show & Kane is truly awful. The challengers get all the offence early and it’s only really when Show & Kane start to fall out that the Champions can get a look in. Still, when you’ve had tag team matches in the WWE in 2001 with Kronik in them there’s always something worse that’s happened.
If you see the match of Rob Van Dam against the Undertaker for the Hardcore title on the marquee and are expecting a classic I don’t really have words for you. This title shot was Taker’s reward for helping Vince create his Kiss My Ass club. No, I don’t know either. This isn’t bad because a lot of it is Taker standing there whilst RVD does his stuff. Then it’s time to go home so Taker starts to dominate and picks up the win.
The only thing that could possibly follow is the Women’s Title match between Trish Stratus against Jacqueline. Of course, the fans have no interest in the two having a wrestling match, even when the two seem to be waffling each other for real, or at least with an intensity that was not normal for this era. It’s boring for the most part but they get all of three and a half minutes so what could they do?
And then it’s time for the Vengeance 2001 – Unification tournament. The only people the WWE seem to have cared about looking strong heading in is Austin and The Rock so whilst that is obviously the match everyone wants to see there is little chance that the WWE is going to throw it away here. It’s the WWE title up for grabs first as Austin and Kurt Angle reverse roles from their summer feud.
They’ve worked enough with each other in 2001 to mean that they can walk through a match like this and make it semi-entertaining but it never reaches the heights of their previous matches. You don’t hear about the Vengeance 2001 Angle Vs. Austin match as much as the Unforgiven one, for example.
The “World Heavyweight Title” match between The Rock and Chris Jericho at Vengeance 2001 is better. Jericho is channelling his celebrated heel run in WCW to some extent here with his shenanigans and The Rock is comfortable enough to let him run through his routine and, somewhat surprisingly, dominate large portions of the match. Rock does of course make his big comeback but his seemingly sure-fine win is halted when Vince McMahon wanders down to ringside for the referee’s distraction. It also allows Jericho to hit a low blow and his own Rock Bottom to get the upset win.
Naturally, as Jericho is the heel he has the advantage by going straight into his next match… oh wait. Still, with Rock losing, I suppose they had to go on last. Angle runs out and attacks Austin as he comes back out but The Rock is still around so negates this and hits Jericho with a Rock Bottom to boot. This match is a notch below the two “semi-finals”. Largely because we get even more “creative” at the end of this one as Earl Hebner takes a bump, Vince brings out Nick Patrick, Ric Flair makes his way down and then finally, after Austin has had the traditional “visual win” by making Jericho tap out to his own Lion-tamer only for there be no referee to see it, Booker T runs down, smacks Austin with a title belt and Y2J is the “first-ever unified World Champion in wrestling history” at Vengeance 2001.
I’m far from a fan of Jericho in a general sense but he spent weeks leading up to this jobbing out to the real stars and needs a shed load of help in the main event to be able to pin Steve Austin. Even in his moment of true glory, he seems an afterthought. It didn’t bode well for a fantastic title run, did it?
There’s virtually nothing of interest on the undercard although it only occasionally drifts into the realms of “completely unwatchable”. The trio of World Title matches that end the show isn’t all-time classics but is enjoyable enough even if it’s hard to watch them now knowing where Jericho’s title reign would go from here. But that’s a story to continue next time…