Arrowhead Pond – Anaheim, CA – TV Rating – 3.9
We start with a recap of the Chris’ Jericho & Benoit Tag Team title win over Steve Austin & Triple H on Raw three days ago before the show properly starts with Vince McMahon making his way onto the rampway. He references the “miracle” that was the Chris Jericho & Benoit title win and then acknowledges the career-threatening injury that HHH suffered during that match. When he tells the fans that HHH will be out for at least six months they cheer. Vince doesn’t think that’s very respectful. The main push of this opening though is to set up the evening’s main event.
Vince says that Chris Jericho and Benoit will have a very short reign because tonight the Tag Team Titles are up for grabs in a TLC match, which for the first time in WWE history will involve four teams. The usual three plus the new champions. Taz, on commentary at ringside, has the shocked impression of a young kid who is told the tooth fairy isn’t real.
X-Pac Vs Eddy Guerrero
This is happening tonight after Guerrero interfered in the X-Pac/Matt Hardy match on Raw and thus cost the leader of the X-Factor his chance at the European Title. Obviously as this is supposed to be a grudge match the two lock up as normal at the start. It’s reasonably fast paced and the two exchange some impactful moves. Eddy, with a burgeoning face turn bubbling under, could really do with the win here so of course, it’s X-Pac who picks up the win when he pulls Eddy off the top rope and hits an over-the-back X-Factor for the 1-2-3. Of course within a week or so Eddy is history, for the time being anyway, with the WWE so it doesn’t really matter in the longer term.
William Regal is backstage in his office and he is talking with former ECW star Tajiri who is making his on-screen debut for the company tonight (although I’m fully aware that he wrestled a couple of spots for them in 1997, let’s stick with the “official story”). Regal “can’t understand a bloody word” that Tajiri is saying but surmises that he wants to become a WWE superstar. The way to do that is to make friends with the Commissioner and help him out. Which can start by him fetching some Tea and Crumpets for Regal. Regal does have the grace to tell Tajiri to stop bowing to him as the WWE “don’t do racial stereotypes”. Presumably that was a rib of some sorts.
Kurt Angle is backstage and can’t find Shane McMahon. He’s still upset about his Olympic Re-enactment being interrupted on Raw. Elsewhere, Spike Dudley is pleading with D’Von and Bubba Ray to not put Molly Holly through a table but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The Dudley’s head off to find some tables whilst Spike heads off to find Molly. However Kurt Angle finds her first and asks if she has seen Shane but she hasn’t. When she asks Kurt to leave because she’s waiting for someone, Angle realises this is Spike Dudley and he says she should go look for Shane rather than an ugly inbred wannabe wrestler. Spike finally arrives and takes offence to Angle’s actions and demands he leaves his “girlfriend” alone. The segment is worth it for the perfectly pitched look of surprise and then delight on Molly’s face to hear Spike describe her as such. Kurt, meanwhile, wonders if he’s wandered into an episode of Saved By The Bell. Spike challenges him to a match, Angle scoffs, but Spike is deadly serious and even leads the way to the ring.
Kurt Angle Vs Spike Dudley
Angle still can’t quite believe it as we get into the ring but Spike slaps him and then bales for a chase around the ring. Unfortunately for Spike, Angle catches him and from there he batters him from pillar to post and even hits an Olympic Slam from the steps onto the floor. Back in the ring, it’s another OS and then the Anklelock for the tap-out. Afterwards, Angle refuses to release the hold until Molly Holly runs out and she seems ready to go toe-to-toe with Angle. Crash and Hardcore Holly appear though and drag her out of the ring and take her back to the locker-room. Angle slaps on the submission hold on Spike again just because.
After a break, Angle is backstage with Lillian Garcia who asks him if he is proud of what he has just done. Of course he is. And he also says that he will be proud to break Shane McMahon’s ankle soon.
Raven Vs Dean Malenko
When is a possible “dream match” not a “dream match”? When it lasts 150 seconds. Of course “dream match” is over-stating it but it’s an intriguing clash that to my knowledge only ever happened once in a singles capacity on TV before this (an April 1999 match on WCW Saturday Night) before this. It’s as decent as you’re going to get with such a short running time even if the real thrust of this being on TV is to see Perry Saturn wearing a lampshade as a hat. You’re welcome… Anyway, Teri distracts the referee allowing Saturn to interfere and hit Raven with a neckbreaker before Malenko bridges for the pin. Post match shenanigans see Raven hitting the Evenflow on Saturn onto a chair which leaves him out cold.
We then see Steve Blackman working out with his kendo stick. Trish Stratus arrives and needs to get changed for their upcoming match. Even though it’s the men’s dressing room Trish was prepared enough to setup a screen. She nips behind it and the lighting is such that it lights up her silhouette. Blackman appears to like what he sees.
Then we see Lita & The Hardy’s backstage, presumably talking TLC strategy before we see Steve Austin wandering somewhere else in the building. Then after a break Trish is still getting changed but is having trouble with a button. Steve has to help her and they are behind the screen when Grandmaster Sexay walks in to find Trish complimenting Steve on how “big” and “hard” it is. She’s talking about the kendo stick.
Back in the arena it’s Stone Cold Steve Austin promo time. It’s one of those that doesn’t really have any relevance to tonight’s proceedings and is more about just getting one of your top guys out there to entertain with a promo. He references HHH’s injury and their title loss on Raw. He blames the loss to Chris Jericho on HHH. He again tells The Undertaker it’s over between them and goes on to say that he’s a fighting champion who will defend the belt anytime, anywhere…except in Anaheim because they don’t deserve it.
Tajiri has got Regal his tea and crumpets backstage when Rhyno barges in demanding a rematch for the Hardcore Title tonight. Regal says no. So Rhyno suggests a crack at Steve Austin. Regal says no. Finally Rhyno demands an IC title match against Kane and Regal, after checking he is sure, gives him that. As Rhyno leaves, Regal turns to Tajiri and tells him Rhyno’s head is so big it’s like “an orange on a toothpick”.
Steve Blackman, Grandmaster Sexay & Trish Stratus Vs Bull Buchanan, The Goodfather & Ivory
We’re in the dying embers of Right To Censor here. It was a gimmick that had run it’s course all being told anyway. This may even be their final call. Even without that confirmation being available at the time you would have guessed that anyway. Blackman does his stuff, Sexay does his stuff, Trish and Ivory have a cat fight and the good guys and girls win. Perfectly fun match that obviously sees the three winners dancing afterwards. Including Trish doing the Worm.
Kevin Kelly is with Dean Malenko and Terri backstage asking about Perry Saturn’s condition. He’s not good is the surmisation. And to prove it, here comes Saturn muttering something about bunnies, radishes and babies before telling us all “you’re welcome”. In the crowd, B-Real from Cypress Hill is here. Back to, erm, backstage and Lilian Garcia is chatting with Edge & Christian. They’re not concerned about tonight’s TLC match as it is their speciality and that Vince McMahon himself says they are the best team to get the belts off Benoit & Jericho.
Kane Vs Rhyno – Intercontinental Title
There’s a hard-hitting edge to this one that brings it up a notch from your usual four minute TV match. Rhyno shows no fear and takes it straight to Kane and basically they batter each other for a bit. You could almost believe that Rhyno has a chance of winning as the match progresses but of course Kane side-steps the Gore attempt and hits a chokeslam for the 1-2-3.
Benoit & Jericho have a pow-wow again, geeing each other up for their title defence tonight. It’s generic but at least it does provide some context to the match and the champions preparation for it.
Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho Vs The Dudley’s Vs The Hardy’s Vs Edge & Christian – World Tag Team Titles – TLC Match
I mean it’s hot-shot booking of course and presumably, it was on the cards even before Triple H’s injury the night before (this was taped on Tuesday). But a TLC match on Free Tv in 2001 was something quite special. It tends to be forgotten about compared to the three matches the other three teams had against each other on PPV but that’s because, well, those happened on PPV. And whilst this one can’t quite manage to live up to the lofty heights of it’s predecessors it’s still one hell of an effort and a very good match indeed.
Everyone goes for Jericho and Benoit at the beginning before we split off into the usual big spots, rest for some, big spots from others routine that these matches necessarily have to incorporate. One twist is that Benoit goes for a big top rope – to – ringside splash on Matt Hardy but Hardy moves and Benoit hits the table he was lying on and goes through it. Tazz jumps up from commentary to help them but we all know this is a set up for the “Terry Funk mid-match return”! And of course it is. More big insane moves follow before Benoit becomes the last man standing by default and climbs up the ladder to grab the belts and retain the titles. They both celebrate as the show goes off the air.
It’s a one-match show of course but when that match is the main event and it delivers the action it does you will always leave feeling the show was a very good one. In 2001 the main interest in everything else is that the WWE’s ultra loaded roster gives you matches like Rhyno Vs Kane or Raven Vs Malenko which aren’t great but are interesting enough. Nothing much explicitly sets anything up for the upcoming King of The Ring PPV so this does feel like a “treading-water” TV show but again, it’s worth it for the main event alone.
Chris Jericho is a standout performer on AEW currently and recently competed in a Blood and Guts match.
The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Santana and Ortiz, Jake Hager and Sammy Guevara) face The Pinnacle (MJF, Shaun Spears, FTR and WARDLOW w/Tully Blanchard) at AEW Double or Nothing in a Stadium Stampede match.