It is a night removed from the “greatest PPV in WWE history” (possibly – though most likely up to this point). Stone Cold Steve Austin has made a deal with the devil, accepting help from Vince McMahon to defeat The Rock to become the World Heavyweight Champion once again. Jim Ross and Paul Heyman welcome us to the show and JR is still super upset about what Austin did last night and is hoping we get answers.
Fort Worth, TX – TV RATING 5.7
We might, but obviously the first person we have to see in the ring after a tumultuous PPV is of course Stephanie McMahon. Because she’s upmost in fans’ minds for the last 24 hours. She is upset about Trish slapping Vince last night “after all he did for her” and as such has been granted a Whipping Match with Trish tonight. Why do I get the feeling that Trish’s storyline redemption over the McMahon’s might prove to be a very short one?
Still, at least the real purpose of this segment is to bring Vince himself out. He demands respect from the fans and then suggests they are all wondering why he is so happy. It’s because tonight he gets to hand the World Title to Steve Austin…once he arrives. It may be a new era, but there’s still no compunction on main event talent to show up on time for the show. Vince runs down why he shouldn’t be happy (Trish slapped him, Linda kicked him in the balls, Shane beat him) but channels Shakespeare by telling the world that “all’s well that ends well” and WrestleMania ended ok for him.
Vince then confronts JR as he’s upset with being likened to the Devil last night and forces JR to say that he’s not the Devil. Vince claims the fans in Texas were behind Austin when he won and that someone has sent him a gift. It’s a White Cowboy hat that Vince puts on, runs through some stereotypes and then stomps on the hat.
It seems like this is what REALLY gets on The Rocks’ nerves as he comes out and gets on the mic. He demands an instant rematch tonight on Raw but Vince says that isn’t going to happen. Rock decides he will change Vince’s mind by punching him and locking on the Sharpshooter. Vince acquiesces and not only do we have a Mania Main Event rematch tonight, but it’s also going to be in a Steel Cage.
Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn Vs Test & The Acolytes
New European Champion Guerrero is out with his buddies and brags about his title win last night and intimates that Test has no friends to tag with. He does and it’s Bradshaw and Faarooq. Though that might surmise that he’s had to hire friends to get revenge on the trio who cost him his Euro title last night. The match itself isn’t at all bad, being a fast-paced back and forth affair which comes to a head when Perry Saturn chivalrously saves Terri Runnels from being attacked by Test only for this to enable Test to hit the Big Boot on Saturn and get the 1-2-3. As Eddie points out post-match though, Test may have won tonight but Eddie still has the belt.
William Regal is on the phone with his mum (telling her all about what a miserable so and so Chris Jericho is) when he’s interrupted by Stephanie who wants assurance that Trish can’t get out of the Whipping Match tonight. Regal checks she’s sure she wants it and Steph shows she does by screeching and hitting Regal’s desk with the whip.
After a break, Vince visits Regal and says that he has other business to attend to tonight and doesn’t want any worries about his little girl being in a match. Regal says he knows what to do.
Michael Cole is backstage with Triple H next. He’s beaten everyone there is to beat but last night was Taker’s night. Things will be different next time they meet. When Cole asks him about Austin and Vince helping each other out at WrestleMania, HHH confirms that he knew nothing about it beforehand.
After Trish paces the backstage area, leather strap in hand, Stevie Richards is addressing his Right To Censor buddies. They may have lost all their matches last night but they didn’t lose their conviction. Apparently, they are going to start their renaissance tonight by taking the Hardcore Title off Kane. Good luck with that.
WHIPPING MATCH: Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley Vs Trish Stratus
These two had a remarkably good match at No Way Out 2001 (even more so considering their inexperience at the time) so this could be alright. But then again, it’s a Whipping Match and Stephanie McMahon is out to get revenge to so probably not. As you’d expect the two wail away at each other in and out of the ring but once Trish has Stephanie draped over the ropes, arse in the air, as an eager target for some “whipping”, Commissioner Regal runs in and hits Trish with an inverted neck breaker. He then holds Trish up so Steph can whip her but this brings Chris Jericho in for the save. I guess that’s all the decision we’re getting in this one.
Backstage after a break, Steph is admonishing Regal for letting Jericho ruin her match and the way Regal chooses to make it up to her is to book himself and Kurt Angle against Jericho in a handicap match tonight.
Rhyno Vs Crash Holly
Crash is Light-Heavyweight Champion so with typical WWE subtlety he gets squashed in under a minute. Molly Holly gets almost as much offence in as her cousin Crash when she hits the Molly Go Round on Rhyno after the match. He as good as no-sells it anyway and hits the Gore on Molly.
We’re still pushing Debra as a thing here next as Kevin Kelly asks her why Vince and her husband joined forces. She says she was as surprised as anyone and doesn’t want to talk about it.
This leads to the second Vince in-ring promo of the night. Vince says that he was surprised to hear people booing Austin’s name earlier when all Austin is guilty of is doing what it took to become champion. Austin comes out to a mixed reaction but when Austin asks the fans if they want him to beat up Vince they roar approval. But Austin says that he’s never allowing the fans to sponge off him ever again and he doesn’t intend on offering up any explanation to the fans either. This, and talk of the Steel Cage match tonight, does at least get the fans chanting for Rocky (though we’ll ignore the fact that Austin has to do the old “you’re not going to chant Rocky, Rocky, Rocky” thing to get them to do so). To make sure everyone knows Austin his 100% heel he calls a young fan in the crowd a “bastard” and says he could beat up the entire crowd if he wanted to.
Triple H has been watching this on a monitor backstage and he looks far from happy. Somewhere else backstage The Rock has also been watching this unfold on a monitor. He’s not happy either.
HARDCORE CHAMPIONSHIP: Kane Vs Val Venis
Ye gods. This doesn’t bode well. Six minutes later and I’m almost asleep. When I think of all the talent in the build-up to Mania who had to have three minutes matches yet they give these two double that… Anyway, this is completely dull and was actually the time to do a quick run through with Kane dominating as it was obvious that was going to be the result all along.
Post-match the Right to Censor crew gang up on Kane until The Undertaker makes the save.
Triple H finds Regal backstage and demands to know where he can find Vince. Regal doesn’t want to tell him but this just makes HHH even madder saying that if he finds out Regal knew about Vince & Austin he’ll beat him up too. Regal points in the direction he can find him. HHH then finds Vince who is once again getting himself a coffee in catering. Maybe it’s just me, but Vince getting his own coffee really upsets me as a character plot hole. Anyway, HHH yells about being kept in the dark and Vince says it was none of his business but points out that Austin came to him for help and won whilst HHH didn’t and lost. HHH is so mad he messes up the catering table.
HANDICAP MATCH: Chris Jericho Vs William Regal & Kurt Angle
To return to the Hardcore match for a moment. That gets six minutes, this gets four and a half. Even if it’s fairly clear that Jericho isn’t going to win (only the true stars tend to win handicap matches against the odds) would anyone have remotely begrudged knocking three minutes off the Kane/Venis match and allocating it here?
It’s decent enough for what it is of course given the talent involved but it doesn’t really go anywhere and seems more about the post-match when the victorious Regal and Angle continued to batter Jericho only for Chris Benoit to make the save. Chris Benoit and Jericho are left alone in the ring and stare at each other before Jericho leaves. This is really the start of Benoit’s face turn.
Shane McMahon is shown arriving at WWE New York but rather than him showing up late, it appears that this footage is from earlier in the day.
“The One” Billy Gunn Vs X-Pac
God bless Paul Heyman for trying to give a reason for this match (his gist being this was made as some form of punishment for Gunn talking with Shane on Smackdown) but who really cares. I’m certainly not complaining about this only being three minutes long. It’s fine I guess, but by the time X-Pac gets the cheap win after interference from his X-Factor buddies I’m even more disinterested than I was at the start.
Shane is shaking hands with fans in more footage from earlier in the day at WWE New York. As JR promises we’ll hear from Shane shortly. After we see the Steel Cage being put into place we do get to listen to Shane. He’s happy with WrestleMania and happy he gave Vince what he deserved. He says he can now turn his attention to “other business” and that WCW is shaping up nicely. He ends by saying that he hopes the next time that Linda kicks Vince she does it somewhere that it will really hurt…his chequebook.
Before the main event, Michael Cole interviews a very serious Rock. Rock says he knows why Austin did what he did last night because he can’t beat The Rock one-on-one. He saw the desperation in Austin’s eyes and that he’s going to beat Austin all over the Lone Star state tonight.
WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Steel Cage: Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs The Rock
Fans may be reluctant to boo Austin yet (we’re in Texas after all) but they do cheer The Rock. Laying it on thick, Vince gives Austin a personal introduction before Austin slams the cage door into the Rock’s head and we’re off. The two battle around the ring first of all and it’s all high-intensity stuff for a couple of minutes before they do eventually make it into the cage.
Austin gets Vince to give him a chair in an attempt to repeat what happened last night but Rock is able to fight back and get Austin in the sharpshooter. Austin does the visual tap out but the referee is too busy trying to stop Vince from getting into the cage for it to count. Vince pulls the referee off a count and ends up knocking him down which is the cue for Vince and Austin to lay a beat down. This brings out Triple H with his trusty sledgehammer and after pushing Vince aside he goes face-to-face with Austin…only for HHH to swerve and smack Rock and initiate a three-way beat-down that presumably counts as our finish to the match.
The show ends with the three dastardly heels sharing some beers and a toast to the destruction of The Rock.
It seems clear in hindsight that the WWE were afraid that Austin’s heel turn wouldn’t get over (i.e. that fans, in general, wouldn’t boo him). In reality, it didn’t. But the loading of the bases here with the formation of the Two Man Power Trip was designed to make it impossible for fans to want to cheer Austin. So soon after their intense feud and battle at No Way Out it made little sense for Austin and HHH to suddenly be on the same side and with The Rock taking time off until Summerslam it left an imbalance at the top of the card. Sure, The Undertaker and Kane are about to become the main event face duo, but that’s all things we’d seen before. Still, that’s another matter for another time.
This is never really anything more, as a show than a pause for breath after WrestleMania. There’s the attempt to shore up/boost Austin’s heel turn (which perhaps isn’t a good sign 24 hours after the start of it) and in that sense, the show achieves that (for good or bad). But other than keeping the Regal/Jericho feud bubbling, teasing a Benoit face turn and Shane promising that there’s something happening with WCW there’s not really an awful lot of progression happening here on this show.
And on a final note, as far as I can tell, the WWE would only ever one more time reach the heights tonight’s rating.