Of course, the “go home” Smackdown show before WrestleMania X-Seven has to start with a video package re-cap of the historic WWE/WCW simulcast from Raw/Nitro three nights ago. Vince buying out his competition, and by extension Vince Vs Shane is the thing that needs hyping first up, not The Rock/Stone Cold Steve Austin or anything like that.
Joe Louis Arena, Detroit MI – TV Rating – 4.9
Michael Cole and Tazz introduce us and remind us we are just three days away from Mania. So naturally, the opening of the show has to be more McMahon related stuff. Triple H and Stephanie make their way to the ring accompanied by a dozen or so cops. Triple H is rocking the leather jacket AND denim jacket combo look topped off by a beret.
In case we are in any doubt, HHH reminds us that he’s the very best in the world and that it’s disgraceful that he’s not in the main event of Mania fighting for the World Title. He then brings himself around to the matter at hand. The Undertaker. He insists that he respects Taker but that Taker’s yard is “smack dab” in the middle of his world now. We see clips of HHH battering Taker over the past few weeks and that whilst he didn’t try to beat Taker until recently but once he started he’s done nothing but beat Taker. In case you’re wondering Stephanie is just stood around trying to portray smug facial expressions and occasionally nodding in agreement.
Naturally, as this is wrestling, The Undertaker is here to offer a response. He has to stay 25 feet away from Stephanie so has to do his talking from the ramp. He talks of how he went to school but always got sent home early because he didn’t (and doesn’t) play games. He carries on with the yard/big dog stuff as he makes his way closer to the ring. At this point, Stephanie reminds us of her existence by screaming about the restraining order. You can respect what Stephanie has achieved as a woman in a male-dominated world (regardless of family connections) and still accept that in 2001 she was a terrible promo.
Taker is prepared though. He’s already called his lawyer and bail bondsman to ensure that if he is arrested he’ll be out within 12 hours. He’s also called 911 because HHH will need medical attention when he’s finished with him. With that Taker rushes the ring and attacks. The cops try and help but Taker gets a few more shots in before HHH is dumped at ringside and the cop’s cuff Taker. Presumably, this week they are “real fake cops” and not the “fake, fake cops” HHH had previously brought to TV.
After the break, we get highlights of what we’ve just seen that for some reason have to start with Stephanie’s screeching. We see the cops leading Taker away backstage but his only concern seems to be whether they can all stop for doughnuts on the way to the slammer.
Three days before the biggest show of the year The Rock can’t be bothered to turn up on time and is seen walking into the arena. He is confronted by Commissioner William Regal who says that Vince doesn’t want anything to risk the Mania main event so he’s asked Rock to remain in his dressing room. Might have been better to give him the night off then? Rock says Regal is nothing but Vince’s messenger boy but he has no problem sitting in his dressing room tonight.
Maybe he’s finally got tired of pacing around the backstage areas for the past three weeks.
The Acolytes Vs X-Pac & Justin Credible
Jacqueline and Albert are at ringside for this one. I’m expecting Flair/Steamboat levels of action as we get into this one. Instead, we get a lame brawl that makes no sense. The Acolytes (along with Tazz) are headed to WrestleMania to take on Right To Censor so this should be a tune-up match for them. Instead, as is obvious as soon as the match starts, it’s a cue for the Right To Censor to come out. Faarooq and Bradshaw meet the task head-on and Tazz breaks off from commentary to give a hand. In all this, Faarooq gets the visual pin on X-Pac that can’t be counted because the referee is trying to attend to the brawl. Bull Buchanan smacks Faarooq with a bicycle kick (according to Cole, anyway) and rolls X-Pac on him for the cheap win. RTC finish the segment on top so they’re almost certainly losing on Sunday.
Shane McMahon turns up (late, although I guess he owns the competition now so can do what he wants) in his WCW1 number-plated limo. He has quick conversations with Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle as well as the Hardy’s. Tazz is injured after the RTC melee so Paul Heyman joins Cole on commentary and things immediately improve. Both talk about Vince’s edict that WCW can’t be mentioned tonight (ignore the fact that the pre-show opening promo video was all about WCW) and this gives Paul a chance to plug ECW again.
Kurt Angle & Eddie Guerrero Vs Chris Benoit & Test
Who doesn’t love a good old “take two singles matches from the upcoming PPV and make them into a somewhat impromptu tag match on the go-home show”? It’s worth noting of course that Benoit and Angle didn’t have a Mania match a week before the card and Eddie Guerrero’s European Title match against Test was announced whilst we saw Eddie eating a meal alone at WWE New York…with the announcement coming a few days after Eddie had jobbed to Test in minutes on TV.
Of course, with three all-time great talents in here (and Test – hey I kinda liked the guy, but come on) this could be magical.
Instead, it’s three minutes. Three exciting and fast-paced minutes, but three minutes nonetheless.
Eddie taps clean to the crossface. Post-match, Angle makes Benoit tap to the Ankle Lock to get revenge for tapping to Benoit on Monday night.
William Regal has summoned Debra to his office. He asks why Stone Cold isn’t here yet. See, no one had any time-keeping at all in 2001 obviously. He reiterates that Vince doesn’t want anything to jeopardise the Mania main event and that with her influence over both men (as wife and manager) she should make sure nothing does. Memory plays funny tricks doesn’t it because I was sure that WWE had jettisoned the pointless Debra as Rock’s manager storyline long before Mania. But here we are, three days away and whilst it’s been shunted to the background it’s still here.
A Lugz “Boot Of The Week” promo is shown next. Which is all about Shane buying WCW. With Vince mentioning WCW. On a show where Vince has told the commentators not to mention WCW. Gotta keep those sponsors happy I guess.
Shane is backstage and this time he has Billy Gunn who he puts over as one of the best talents in wrestling, period. Makes you worry for WCW’s future even more. Stephanie walks by and asks what Shane is doing here and that Vince is “insane” with anger. Presumably, that’s not even anything to do with Shane buying WCW, that’s just his default mood. Shane reminds her that he owns a piece of WWE too so he has every right to be here.
Cole and Heyman hype the Vince/Shane match as a video package reminds us Mick Foley is the guest referee. Backstage Steve Austin has finally turned up. William Regal chastises him for being late but Austin basically ignores him and walks off. Then Vince and Trish have arrived to find that someone has parked in Vince’s spot. He is incandescent with rage when he realises it’s Shane.
The video package of the Austin/Rock rivalry that should have opened the show airs now as a prelude to Steve Austin making his way to the ring. Stone Cold isn’t here to flap his gums and calls out the Rock straightway. He gets Vince McMahon but Austin says he wanted The Rock, not a jackass. Vince says he’s had a few bad days but that things aren’t going to get worse by his WrestleMania main event being affected. Vince tells Austin to leave the ring which leads to Austin punching him out and pushing him out of the ring. This is the cue for Rock to come out.
Austin reminds Rock of the Stunner on Monday and perhaps even more evilly reminds Rock that he drank one of his beers. As a result, he offers Rock a toast which Rock doesn’t appear to take too kindly. Rock returns with a toast of his own and naturally, this means that the two brawl. Vince sends for some referees who have the usual effect (i.e none). A bunch of mid-carders (including Billy Gunn, Test, Steve Blackman) have no more luck. Finally, Vince gets some cops and between everyone, some form of order is restored as the two guys are escorted backstage.
Back from a break and Austin and Rock are still trying to duke it out but are sent off to separate dressing rooms. Vince and Trish (who seem to have spent most of the last three weeks together on a sofa) are then shown and whilst Trish tries to comfort Vince he’s more interested in seeing that Shane is talking to Chris Jericho, via a monitor that is showing footage that no-one else can see. He decides he needs to address that little tete a tete.
Matt Hardy Vs Rhyno
I think we know the drill by now. On paper this could be a good little match up. Instead it’s a two minute run-through of spots that ends in a non-clean finish when Christian interferes. The only reason it even seems to happen is because we need an excuse for the three teams who will be clashing in the TLC Match at Mania to be out in the ring with ladders and chairs. Yes, the Dudley’s run in and the end result of the whole thing is them putting Rhyno through a table as revenge for what happened to Spike on Monday.
Vince catches up with Jericho who advises him that he was just shooting the breeze with Shane and that “Junior” shouldn’t worry about it. Vince does not appreciate being called junior.
Vince is then back with Trish on the sofa and advises us he feels better now that Shane has left the building. To unwind he wants to see Trish against Ivory in a Bra and Panties match tonight. Trish says she’s up to the task, after which Vince confirms that Trish is actually wearing a bra and panties under her clothing.
The Undertaker’s music kicks in back in the arena. Those who have been paying attention and realise he’s been sent off to jail are rewarded when its actually Triple H who rides Taker’s motorbike in. Because there’s nothing like the heel beating up the face’s motorbike as the last stop of a feud before the biggest show of the year.
William Regal finds Debra backstage and tells her Vince wants to see her. When she finds him Vince tells her that as she has failed to keep The Rock in check, he has no choice but to fire her as his manager. It’s nothing to do with Austin, and she hopes she doesn’t take it personally. She does and says it’s not fair. “Life’s not fair, Debra”. This might be the best segment of the show purely because it extricates Debra from a main event storyline “position” that she didn’t need to be a part of in the first place.
BRA AND PANTIES MATCH: Trish Stratus Vs Ivory
Trish is ready to go but Women’s Champion Ivory comes out and refuses to participate because it would compromise her moral standards. Trish attacks her anyway and quickly loses her shirt. Ivory is aghast and tries to cover her opponent up. A mat brawl continues long enough for Chyna to slowly make her way to the ring and attack Ivory and strip her of her outer garments. This whole thing was nothing more than a sell job on behalf of the Women’s Title match at Mania.
Chris Jericho & Kane Vs William Regal & The Big Show
Yes. This is the main event of the go-home TV show before WrestleMania X-Seven. Surely the Rock/Austin scenario should have been here instead. Maybe main eventers not only show up late for shows but leave early too. Regal gets the mic and complains about being besmirched by Jericho over the past few weeks and that he will get his ultimate revenge at Mania. When the match starts Jericho looks to get at Regal but is clubbed by Show. All four are clearly “saving it” for Sunday and Mania so what we get is perfectly acceptable WWE brawling but nothing more. Raven (as the third man in the Hardcore Title match at Mania) makes an appearance which is more about him bringing a fire extinguisher to ringside than anything else as in a melee Regal grabs this, waffles Jericho and locks on the Regal Stretch to force Y2J to tap.
Have things wrapped up too soon? Cole says he hopes we get a final word from The Rock or Stone Cold before we finish and after a music video promo hyping the Mania Main Event Kevin Kelly has indeed found Austin who says it’s all been one big set-up against him but that the bottom line is that he NEEDS to be World Champion once Mania comes to an end.
And so the Road To WrestleMania is done. It would be difficult to say that this was a great “go-home” show. The Rock/Stone Cold thing should have been the finish of the show, but at least it was there. The major matches all got a bit of build-up (although ironically most of the Vince/Shane hype was via video recaps) and it was another one of those shows where things mostly whizzed along without too much effort required from the viewer. As you’d expect, the fifteen minutes or so of in-ring action on the show was largely pointless beyond continuing the tease for Mania matches. But as we’ve said before, that’s 2001 for you.
And for what it’s worth, as far as I can tell, no Smackdown show since this one has beaten the 4.9 tv rating that this one got.