WWE: Retro SmackDown – No Way Out of Little Rock | February 14th 2002

Alltel Arena – Little Rock, Arkansas, TV Rating: 4.1

The Good: It’s far from great but as I get to the end of the show without anything in this column we have to give some props to Undertaker & Kurt Angle against Triple H & Maven and a less than enthusiastic Little Rock crowd. Mainly because seeing Maven in there with those three is an amusing curio because the match itself is your usual “WWE TV Main Event”, with added, “let’s throw a load more people out there too to whip up the hype for No Way Out”.   

The Bad: I don’t want to overly criticise the wrestlers themselves so it’s the booking here.  But Val Venis’ pre-match routine of picking a lady from the Little Rock audience to give her some sort of Valentine’s Gift (don’t ask) lasts longer than his match with William Regal which goes to a brass knuckles finish in all of a minute.

Again I’m aware that Dustin Rhodes is still wrestling two decades on but Goldust going over on Tajiri here seems a waste of someone who could be a solid mid-card guy just so that he can attack Torrie Wilson and allow Rob Van Dam to make the save…well what’s the point?

If you saw that it was Chris Jericho against Kane in a non-title match tonight and didn’t expect it to go to a quick non-finish and for Austin to come out and batter Jericho you probably haven’t seen WWE before. 

The Indifferent: Again, you can’t really say that the opening promo with Vince and Stephanie is bad.  It does what it has to do in one sense.  And even within the nonsense of the timeline of all this Vince can salvage it so at least it makes sense as you’re listening to him.   But again it’s turning the main storyline (if you ignore the impeding debut of the nWo) into a McMahon based one. That the “pay-off” at the end of the show is that Steph will be the referee for the HHH/Angle match on Sunday just confirms that.

After Tazz against Booker T on Raw you’d have expected Spike Dudley against Test here to balance up ahead of No Way Out’s Tag Team title match but as the champions need to get one back after Monday and we can’t have WWE star Test jobbing, it’s Spike against Booker.  I mean it’s fine for what it is if you can look beyond the continued attempt to punish Booker for rising to fame in WCW. 

Billy & Chuck against the Acolytes goes all of two minutes so you can’t really fault the wrestlers.  Whether you can ever excuse Billy & Chuck as being a product of “different” times is one thing, but whilst the Acolytes disgust at them exchanging valentines gifts is questionable at the very least, Farooq’s “damn” when Bradshaw asks him if he got him a gift raised a laugh here. 

Stone Cold Steve Austin’s in-ring promo is fine but it’s clear that the “fire” that was once within him is close to blowing out.  It’s a nice way to push his match with Jericho on Sunday but you just don’t really feel it.  Similarly their backstage head to head over a six pack of beer is adequate stuff but not really stirring. 

Overall: I wasn’t really feeling this one.  It seems like No Way Out is little more than a contractual obligation on the Road to WrestleMania beyond the fact that the nWo will be turning up there.  Triple H isn’t going to lose his Mania title shot to Angle no matter what odds are stacked against him and any thought that Austin could beat Jericho to go onto Mania to take on HHH can’t be generated when watching a decade later (though it would have seemed plausible at the time).  Even the match between The Rock and The Undertaker seems undercooked given Rock has been off TV all week.  And that feeling is strange overall given that everything on the PPV has at least been given a reason to exist…but we’ll get to that next time.

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