Baltimore Arena – Baltimore, MD – TV Rating – 3.2
We start with highlights of Raw and Steve Austin’s less than happy reactions to being forced to defend his World Title against both Chris’ at King of the Ring which is now just a little over a week away. Michael Cole and Tazz welcome us to the show, telling us that we have a bumper line-up on hand including Kurt Angle against The Undertaker, the last two KotR qualifiers and no less than FOUR title matches tonight. And in fact, we spike straight into the first one.
Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho Vs Edge & Christian – World Tag Team Titles
At this point, it seems as if the World Tag Team Title reign for the Chris’ is becoming something of an unfortunate relevance given their KotR double title shot. Still, this is a good match-up on paper and their upcoming match with Stone Cold does at least mean that it is conceivable that they could drop the tag straps here. It’s a good back and forth matches with the two teams exchanging momentum with each other. For once, Earl Hebner is on the side of the righteous as he stops Edge coming in without a tag but he rights that moment later as he fails to see a tag in for Jericho and sends him out of the ring.
The action pretty much follows the “tag-team formula” from two decades or so earlier but it’s fun enough. The real problem is that whilst it is fine as a tag team title defence it does absolutely nothing to build anything towards the upcoming Triple Threat match. Benoit & Jericho retain after a Christian mis-step sees him spear his own partner Edge. Those two argue after the match but don’t come to blows.
After a break the lovebird’s Spike and Molly are in a stairwell, reading the latest Raw Magazine. How romantic. The idyllic scene is soon interrupted by D-Von and Bubba who aren’t happy about Spike’s romance at all. They accuse Spike of caring more about himself and Molly than he does his brothers and that if he gets into any trouble tonight they won’t be helping him out.
The Big Show Vs Raven – King of the Ring Qualifier
These two battled at WrestleMania and on more than one occasion on TV since. So of course this is nothing more than a squash. For once I’m not really complaining as the prospect of a non “hardcore” rules match between the two doesn’t really fill me with anticipation. It goes about 90 seconds and Show wins. That’s about all you need to know.
Backstage Steve Austin has a clipboard in hand and he bumps into Sgt. Slaughter. It’s amusing as Austin apologises for all the stunners he gave Sarge back in the day before getting down the business at hand. Austin thinks it’s unfair he has to face two men at KotR and so he’s collecting signatures on a petition to force Linda McMahon to cancel the match. Slaughter signs, as does a passing Kevin Kelly.
We then go to an undisclosed location where Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Terri are at a restaurant waiting for the fourth wheel of their double date to turn up. Malenko has a bad feeling about it all and Terri assumes it’s because he’s married. This seems a strange storyline plot point but there we go. Dean is actually more worried that he has a hot date with a model and Perry will ruin it for him. “Sherry” turns up and Saturn tells her she smells like a Viking. Malenko feels it’s going to be a long night.
Matt Hardy Vs K-Kwik – European Title
It was a surprise to see K-Kwik as he’s not been around on the main shows during this retro rundown. That, therefore, telegraphs that it’s unlikely to be his night for winning the European Title. So that means that whilst this is a perfectly adequate four-minute TV match there’s no drama because the result is in no doubt whatsoever. Matt hits the Twist of Fate for the win.
Steve Austin time again as he gets a random guy to sign his petition before bumping into Jim Ross and forcing him to sign it as well. JR does but makes it clear it’s under duress. After a break Michael Cole and Tazz talk about the stalking of Taker’s wife with clips from the latest videos that were shown on Raw. There’s a logic gap there I suppose (why would WWE show them in a package when the other showings are portrayed as being “unauthorised”. Yes, I can overthink these things.
We’re still backstage as X-Factor is complaining about “not getting noticed” in the WWE. This is strange because it seems like they’ve been on every show I’ve watched. Kurt Angle walks in and notices that Albert has to face Kane tonight whilst he is facing the Undertaker. Maybe they should work together to all get what they want. He then points out to Justin Credible that his name sounds likes “Just Incredible”.
We’re back to the restaurant for the double date and Sherry is finding Saturn’s random nonsense endearing. Malenko is less than impressed. The waiter comes to take the order and Saturn asks if they have any dinosaurs. I could swear that the waiter is actually a young Brian Gewirtz so if you’re finding this as hilarious as Malenko you can blame him.
Back at the arena, William Regal is putting over Tajiri for standing up to Steve Austin last week and that he was so impressed by it that he’s going to give him the chance to be a WWE superstar tonight…by putting him in a KotR qualifier. Austin comes in and asks Regal to sign the petition. Tajiri adds a signature too.
The Undertaker Vs Kurt Angle
Presumably, by now Taker has realised Angle has nothing to do with the stalking of Sara but Angle is more upset about Taker interrupting him on Raw. He takes the time to make his match with Shane at KotR a Streetfight and also demands an apology from Taker. He acknowledges he won’t get one so says he will have to beat it out of him. Good luck with that Kurt.
And indeed although Angle gets one punch in at the start he’s soon on the back foot. To show just how dominant he is over the Olympic Hero Taker goes for a pin but pulls Angle up before the referee can count to three. This is about a minute into the match… Taker introduces the steel steps into the ring and despite the referee’s warnings he rams Angle’s head into them and that’s the DQ in two and half minutes. How pointless. X-Factor run in. Well, X-Pac and Justin Credible do. Taker batters them.
Backstage and Austin gets some random backstage worker to sign his petition. The backstage guy gets his “own name” wrong.
Rhyno Vs Test – Hardcore Title
There were some absolute bangers in this division over the time it was at its peak but it’s become clear as I watch these shows that these rarely happened in TV matches that stick to the ring. Without the extra accoutrements these matches all blend into one another. There is some deviation from the norm here though. WCW’s logo hits the screen before Shane McMahon’s music kicks in and he introduces Stacy Kiebler to WWE television. The match stops for about a minute as they walk to ringside and then Stacy shakes her rear at Rhyno which is enough to distract him and cost him the match. So Test is our new Hardcore Champion as Shane and Stacy are escorted to the back by security. Security failed to stop him from entering the arena and let him walk very slowly to the ring without feeling the need to stop him.
After Austin gets Howard Finkel to sign his petition we see Shane & Stacy being escorted to their limo and being sent packing. Shane tells security to tell Vince that “WCW is hotting up”. I presume we’re meant to think that Shane is alluding to sleeping with Stacy because he’s a McMahon and that’s what it’s all about.
Crash Holly Vs Tajiri – King of the Ring Qualifier
Tajiri had previously wrestled for the WWE in 1997 (albeit very briefly) and fans outside the WWE bubble will have been very aware of his talents from ECW. Indeed even Regal has previously acknowledged the talent of Tajiri. We’re not supposed to know or remember about any of that though as this is Tajiri’s debut and we all have to act surprised at how good he is. And he’s very impressive here. Of course, all that aside, if you’ve only known him as Regal’s bowing lackey you would have been surprised at how crisp he is here. At three minutes long I won’t pretend this is a classic but it’s a very effective introduction to Tajiri for the uninitiated.
Austin’s desperation for names on his petition leads him to find the Big Show in the restroom. Big Show is mid, erm, movement. So we’ll leave that one there.
We then go back to the Double Date as Saturn does the old, and I do mean VERY old, “I Eight (ate) the garbage can” routine with Sherry. The highbrow show tonight even by WWE 2001 standards.
Back at the arena, Kevin Kelly is interviewing Test when another Sara video suddenly appears on the screen behind them. Now we see that Sara is being accompanied by security wherever she goes but they still can’t spot the man in the bushes filming everything apparently. Taker sees this and is annoyed. The stalker tells us it’s nearly time for him to come forward.
Spike and Molly continue their tour of North American arena stairwells as they are shown telling each other how great this week has been for them. Naturally, Stone Cold pops in and asks them to sign the petition. Spike is about to until Austin tells him to get his “bimbo girlfriend” to sign it too. Spike takes exception and tears up the petition. Austin looks devastated. After a break, Austin finds Commissioner Regal and demands a match with Spike tonight AND says that it will be for the World Title. And to think I was worrying that Kane Vs Albert would be our main event for the evening.
Kane Vs Albert – Intercontinental Title
It would seem churlish to complain that Albert’s mini-push didn’t mean that these two met at the upcoming PPV but at least there’s a good chance that they’ll get half the time here they would at KotR and so there is at least that positive. In 2001, you do not really want a ten minute plus match between these two. And indeed, they go for five minutes here. But the match is surprisingly good. It’s competitive, back and forth and there are some nice counters on show throughout. Even though no one is asking for an Albert push in June 2001 it’s a little bit sad to see him lose clean here which in theory should end the feud. I have my doubts that anything with X-Factor in 2001 is going to be that simple.
Back to the Double date now and Saturn has ordered a bowl of mustard for his desert. Terri has had more than enough of Sherry and Perry getting on so well so she temporarily disappears before returning with a serving tray that she swings at Sherry. Unfortunately, Sherry ducks and Perry takes the blow. Sherry runs off screaming whilst Perry shouts “Yahtzee.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Spike Dudley – World Heavyweight Title
I don’t care how mad things get in the world of WWE, there is no way Spike Dudley was ever winning here. But because the fans are behind Spike and are willing him on the match has a strange magnetism. Of course, it’s largely Austin battering poor Spike on the way to the Stunner and the 1-2-3 but as squash matches for the World Title goes it’s an entertaining one. Post-match Austin continues his assault on Spike Dudley and even threatens Molly Holly but this is the cue for the two Chris’ to run in and swing some chairs which makes Austin back off.
Not a classic Smackdown episode by any means and there’s actually some good TV style action on it in the form of the Tag Team Title match, Kane/Albert and Tajiri’s impressive “debut”. The main event is entertaining in its own way too. But there’s perhaps a little too much Austin in terms of the petition skits (and not all of them work) and if the Perry and Sherry show was a sitcom it would be cancelled after the pilot. Middling show at best with nothing that really needs searching out in isolation but not a terrible show at all.