MCI Centre – Washington, DC – TV Rating – 4.7
The Rock is back and in case you missed it we start with a video recap from Raw of his return.
The show proper starts off with Kurt Angle making his way out to the ring. He’s so over as a babyface already. He talks some trash about losing the WCW Title and Stone Cold Steve Austin. He leads a chant of “USA” which he says stands for You Submit (to) Angle. He even then gets the crowd to say the pledge of allegiance before he’s interrupted by Lance Storm. Lance wants to be serious and that Angle is an Olympic Gold Medallist only because he didn’t face a Canadian in the final. Angle points out he beat a Canadian in round two. Storm throws the usual barbs at America and the two set a match for later. Storm lands a superkick on Angle and ends the segment waving the Canadian flag.
Backstage, Steve Austin doesn’t seem to know who Shawn Stasiak as he admires his physique and says he should think about getting in to the biz. Stasiak replies that he’s in the alliance so Austin laughs it off as if it was all a rib only to turn around and ask Debra who that was after Stasiak had walked away. It’s an increasingly moot point, but treating everyone from WCW as unknowns is not exactly conducive to getting them over with a WWE crowd.
The Hardy Boys Vs Chuck Palumbo & Sean O’Haire
This is a non-title match despite the presence of the WCW Tag Team Champions. That immediately has you suspecting where this may go. But for once I am wrong. It’s a fairly even back and forth and the WCW guys actually win! Of course it’s not “clean”. And we get the visual where the Hardy’s have the win wrapped up only for the referee to be distracted from making the count. Palumbo superkicks Jeff allowing O’Haire to pick up the win.
Backstage Chris Jericho is wandering aimlessly before running into Stephanie McMahon. The usual “banter” is forthcoming although this time there is the added hilarity that Stephanie has a zit. It’s so funny Jericho calls Edge & Christian across to make fun of it too.
Elsewhere at catering we see Steve Austin getting a coffee when he’s approached by Stacy Keibler who has a tray of cookies for him to try. And wouldn’t you know, Austin finds them delightful so takes a handful. It is then that his wife Debra sees him eating someone else’s cookies. She’s not happy at all.
Elsewhere, DDP is shown and he has erected a shine to Sara. You see whilst originally his “stalking” was all about getting to Taker it’s now flipped to the stage where he simply can’t get enough of Sara. He’s even gone to the lengths of doctoring a wedding picture so it’s him and Sara.
Kanyon Vs Kane – United States Title
Kanyon asks the crowd “who better than Kanyon” and tells them no-one. Kane naturally gets the early control of the match and is only really inconvenienced when he gets annoyed with referee Nick Patrick and decides to chase him. This gives Kanyon something of an opening but not for very long. In the lamest of decisions, Kanyon grabs hold of Patrick’s shirt as Kane attempts to chokeslam him and thus gets DQ’d. Whether you rate Kanyon or not (and I did) you cannot deny that the way he’s being booked almost guarantees he will NEVER get over with the WWE crowd. I should add that bell to bell this lasted all of two minutes.
In the Alliance dressing room, Steph is giving The Dudley’s and Rhino a pep-talk for their upcoming match with Jericho, Edge & Christian.
Finally, the Rock is back on Smackdown. At least he actually gets to speak properly tonight, unlike on Raw. He’s back because he was the people’s champion, not because Vince wanted him back. He calls out Austin but instead he gets Booker T. Booker says that Rock can’t just waltz back in and challenge Austin but Rock doesn’t seem to know who Booker is. “It doesn’t matter” etc. Booker says it does matter because he’s challenging Rock to a match at SummerSlam; Rock is surprised Booker will be at the PPV and asks if he’s going there in case someone needs valet parking. Regardless Rock doesn’t want to wait to SummerSlam but he’ll have to as here is Shane who books himself in a street fight against the Rock…on Raw. Rock accepts, and there’s ten minutes of my life I’m never getting back.
Stone Cold and Debra are backstage and Austin tells his wife he only ever ate her cookies to be polite. Lance Storm comes in and says that he will take Angle out tonight. Debra tries to speak but is told to sit down by her husband and after Storm leaves he tells her never to embarrass him like that again.
Chris Jericho, Edge & Christian Vs The Dudleys & Rhyno
Stop me if you have heard this before but this is another of those five minute, look good on paper, matches that are fine for what they are but don’t offer up anything too vital, important or memorable. The heels are ECW guys who worked for the WWE anyway so they are allowed to look competitive and take the action to the WWE stars. It’s all entertaining and enjoyable without even threatening to become brilliant. As you’d suspect it’s all guns blazing in the final stages. We even see D-Von heading face first into Bubba’s you know what after Edge pushes him off the top rope. Jericho applies the Walls of Jericho o D-Von but Rhyno hits the Gore and D-Von snatches the win. Fine stuff, just nothing much you’ll remember in a weeks time.
Debra and Stone Cold bicker backstage about her cookies so Debra decides to make her way down the ramp, handing out cookers to the crowd. She has made a special batch for Washington, DC but before they can pass judgement, Stone Cold makes his way out. He’s not happy, it’s his show not Debra’s. Debra snatches the mic out of his hand and speaks but he returns the favour. The upshot is that Debra ends up cracking her husband over the head with the tray the cookies were on. Debra storms off as a woozy Austin eats some of the discarded cookies and tries to tell his wife he loves them. As she doesn’t head back Austin instead cuts a promo on Angle and says he accepts the challenge for SummerSlam. OK then.
Backstage William Regal is asking Tajiri to go and find the Undertaker, who hasn’t been seen since DDP’s vignette earlier in the evening.
Lance Storm Vs Kurt Angle
You know the drill by now. Again. In favourable circumstances (i.e. on PPV with 10+ minutes to play with) this would be quite the prospect. We crack the five minute mark but don’t make it to 6. It’s great for what it is though, and one of the best matches of it’s type in this retro run, and it’s full of top action at a fast pace. Angle wins clean when he follows up the Angle Slam with the Ankle Lock.
Regal and Tajiri are interrupted by The Undertaker who waffles on about spending the day in seedy hotels (I presume he means he’s been looking for DDP) and then is annoyed that his match with Booker T in tonight’s main event isn’t for the title. Regal says that if he (meaning Taker) can persuade Booker to make it a title match then he can have it.
After adverts we see Booker and Shane in the Alliance locker room and Booker says he WILL make the match for the title as he wasn’t to prove to The Rock and all the fans just how worthy he is. Which seems kind of babyface-ish rather than heel but there you go.
Booker T Vs The Undertaker – WCW World Title
Sara and Shane McMahon are at ringside so you could probably guess most of the match action right now. Taker has the early going and it’s only when Shane interferes/distracts that Booker can get a real foothold in the match. In fact whilst Booker occasionally has the upper hand it tends to be only when Shane stacks the odds in his favour. There’s a ref bump when Booker pulls the referee in the way of a Taker Splash and with the ref down Taker is about to choke slam Booker when he sees that Shane has grabbed Sara. Sara can easily fight off DDP but Shane’s grip keeps her locked in. Taker smashes Shane, whilst Booker then takes out Taker with a chair. This brings in The Rock and he hits Booker with a Rock Bottom. Taker’s pinfall attempt doesn’t get to three as Shane pulls the ref out. Taker is taken out with a title shot but Booker’s pin is delayed as a WCW ref runs out and when he can count it’s only two. All of WCW seemingly run out and that’s all we’ve got folks.
I mean on paper, you have Storm/Angle, Kanyon/Kane, an intriguing six man, the Hardy’s against the WCW Tag Champs and Booker T defending his WCW Title against The Undertaker. As a five match card that would make a pretty enticing In Your House style two hour PPV wouldn’t it? But this is 2001 WWE TV. And despite apparent appearances the WWE have little real desire to make WWE Vs WCW competitive, or at least play it out on an even playing field. So only the ECW guys who were already known by WWE fans get a solid win. Kane and The Undertaker can only be challenged by their WCW opponents when there’s a distraction or interference. And the continuation of WWE guys not knowing who the WCW wrestlers are is extended to the leader of the Alliance not recognising his own teammates.
So whilst this show it worth it, in relative terms, for a couple of good matches, the show left me with a disappointed feeling of despair. And that’s even with twenty years of hindsight and knowing what’s coming.
Interestingly again, The Rock’s appearance helped this show to a 4.7 TV rating. It’s highest since March’s pre Mania go-home show. And a rating that Smackdown has never beaten since…