April 21, 2002
When I’m too lazy to make up my own mind as to what to review, someone else chooses for me. Not only is this the first PPV of the brand extension. It’s also the first PPV of the brand extension to feature both RAW and Smackdown! talent, before that became something saved for the special PPV shows. And it’s the final WWF PPV.
Trish Stratus . . . shows the potential to be somebody in the women’s division.
Brock Lesnar . . . sells like crazy when he’s supposed to look unstoppable.
Triple H . . . actually doesn’t stink up the joint.
YOSHIHIRO TAJIRI vs. BILLY KIDMAN © (WWF Cruiserweight Title)
It’s hard to substantiate the claim of Tajiri having pinpoint accuracy with his roundhouse kicks, when several of them straight to Kidman’s head aren’t able to score the win. Tajiri’s work on Kidman’s back is fun though, and he does find a few interesting things to do. The bow and arrow across the post was especially nice, and it’s also nice to see Tajiri pull out a new way to apply the Tarantula, for as long as it’s been countered on him. Tajiri did a decent job with Kidman’s comeback spots, although Kidman didn’t seem to grasp to idea of stringing anything together to make the near fall more believable. A dropkick to the back, while a nice counter to the handspring elbow, isn’t even ballpark for something that would warrant a two-count. Tajiri finally uses the dreaded red mist to score the win, which doesn’t say a whole lot for his offense in the match, and Kidman can say he was cheated out of the title, despite the fact that he didn’t really do anything to attempt to keep it.
SCOTT HALL vs. BRADSHAW
Yeah, this is really bad, punches left and right, interference from both X-Pac and Farrooq, Hall even screws up the ending by messing up a simple low blow. The only really entertaining part was in the very beginning, when Hall threw his toothpick in Bradshaw’s face. X-Pac sold a single right hand from Bradshaw, better than Hall sold several of them in the whole match. Bradshaw hitting the lariat while Hall was near the corner, totally gave away X-Pac putting the foot on the rope. Hall does a low blow, and rolls him up for the cheap win, I guess Hall thought making it look like one big movement would add some chain wrestling to the match, and thus not look like he’d just incorrectly punched Bradshaw in the grapefruits.
JAZZ © vs. TRISH STRATUS (WWF Women’s Title)
This is actually a shorter verison of the opening match. Jazz works over Trish’s back (which had been softened up when Molly Holly attacked her beforehand) and while one can’t expect Trish to do that well a sell job, as early into her actual wrestling career as this was, it’s still way better than Kidman’s selling. Jazz shows much more intensity than Tajiri, when she’s going after the back, and strays away from it now and then so that Trish can make a comeback attempt, without looking like the work was getting blown off. The only real blunder they make is when Jazz locks in the Boston crab, Trish does such a good job putting over how it’s hurting her, that Jazz didn’t need to really sit down anymore, but then Trish starts crawling for the ropes anyway, and more or less negates her own selling, but right after that Jazz switches over to the STF for the tap out. That said though, seeing how surprisingly adequate Trish looked here, it’s no great shocker that three more years in the ring turned her into one of the few highlights of the WWE Women’s Division.
BROCK LESNAR vs. JEFF HARDY
The angle that set this up (Lita refusing to sleep with Heyman) isn’t so much tasteless and creepy anymore. It’s ironic now, given the whole fiasco with the real life breakup of Lita and Hardy. There are still better ways to make an official in-ring debut, because there isn’t anything here that nobody hadn’t seen on RAW when Lesnar was just hitting the ring and attacking various people. The only real shocker is how well Lesnar sells for the little offense that Hardy throws into the mix, and it’s way out of place given the rest of the match. Lesnar’s strength is impressive, and when it comes to someone to take brutal bumps to make Lesnar look that much more impressive, Jeff Hardy fits the bill. But aside from the ref stoppage ending, there wasn’t anything new being done here, and when it comes to a PPV, there should be more to it than that.
EDGE vs. KURT ANGLE
Even though this is supposed to be Edge’s big coming out party as a singles wrestler, it’s hard to understand why. Edge already had three singles wins over Angle, so it’s not as if the win would do anything special for him, when previous wins had made him the King of the Ring, the US Champion, and given him a successful defense of the Intercontinental Title. Edge’s rep is for having good matches, but needing to be carried to anything better. It’s obvious that Kurt is the one leading things, but to his credit, Edge makes the most out of some of Kurt’s poor choices. Not that either of them set the world on fire in this match, the oodles and oodles of punching that both do, is explainable because it’s a match based on a personal rivalry, but the only aspect of the match it adds anything to is the length.
The trend of throwing tons of suplexes thankfully hadn’t started yet, Kurt’s first German suplex is met with Edge selling his neck, and Kurt smartly follows up with the sleeper. But after that Kurt ignores the neck in favor of more punching and suplexes, so Edge just starts selling them as a KO rather than his neck being worn down. When Edge returns the favor to Angle, the suplexes obviously don’t look as good, and Angle’s overselling is terrible. The early attempt at the Angle Slam, and Edge’s counter was pretty much a given, but what wasn’t a given was Edge connecting the Impaler so early in the match, and then later having it countered on him later on, rather than the other way around. Edge had defeated Angle with the move several times before, so Angle should know how to either counter or brace himself. Angle hadn’t taken much abuse at all, so the KO sell is all the more goofy, but then he does a similar sell job for Edge’s facebuster, which he’d never beaten anyone with. When Edge goes up top, Angle pops up and runs up for the super belly to belly. Maybe if Edge had stalled before he headed up too, or if he hadn't used the Impaler and went up after the facebuster, you could chalk it up to Angle playing possum, but alas no.
Angle isn’t only disrespecting Edge’s offense. He’s got no problem doing that to his own as well. There’s no sign of any build up to the Ankle Lock in either Kurt’s failed attempt, or his successful one, unless one wants to count the Angle Slam not getting the win, as build to the hold, since his other finisher didn’t get the job done. Both of the escapes that Edge uses hardly make the hold look like a lethal submission. Even though Angle only holds the Ankle Lock for about twenty seconds or so, Edge sells his ankle for the remainder of the match. There is some build to the Angle slam, in the form of the suplexes Angle was dishing out to Edge, as well as the early failed attempt, but when Angle finally does connect the move, it’s not because Edge was worn down enough, but as a counter for the Impaler. The only really convincing near fall of the match comes, not as a result of anything Edge does, it’s because Angle’s chair attack backfired and clocked him in the face. Angle gives Edge a ton of near falls, but what he never gave Edge, was a chance to properly get his own stuff in at the right times, so that the near falls look more convincing. Edge just runs through his usual near falls that never get the win any other time. The failed spear attempt is telegraphed by Angle’s position in the corner, and while it was nice that Angle combined the strategy that let him hit the move in the first place (outsmarting Edge), and the accumulation of suplexes that eventually took their toll on Edge, to get the win. There were still plenty of other ways to get from Point A to Point B, without all the silliness.
ROB VAN DAM © vs. EDDIE GUERRERO (WWF Intercontinental Title)
As odd as it was to give Eddie the belt so soon after his return to the big leagues, the work here shows it was the right choice. RVD can’t grasp the concept of slowing down and letting things play out. It’s all go-go-go. Eddie does what he can. He sells like mad anytime RVD hits a punch, kick, monkey flip, or a hotshot across the top rope. Eddie takes over when he gets the knees up to block Rolling Thunder, and when he’s in control he sticks with what brought him the advantage. Eddie gets about as much offensive time as RVD had, but the difference is that Eddie makes his time in control count for something. Eddie keeps focused on RVD’s back, but never in the same way twice. His transition from the vertical suplex to the backdrop is almost seamless, both the Surfboard and Gory special are nasty looking, and sunset powerbomb off the top looks like it should have been more than adequate to finish things off. The bit with the belt really wasn’t needed, but heaven forbid that a heel wins a title without cheating. Eddie at least makes it count for something by being creative with the neckbreaker on the belt, as opposed to just walloping RVD in the noggin. It’s too bad Eddie didn’t figure out a way to work RVD’s back into the spot, just to continue working it over, but that’s a minor quibble. Eddie’s use of the Frog Splash to get the win, wasn’t really needed, but it was nice to end the match with an actual wrestling move. ***
THE UNDERTAKER vs. STEVE AUSTIN (#1 Contender’s Match for the Undisputed WWF Heavyweight Title)
Oh boy, just what this PPV really needs. This is really high on both men’s list of worst matches. It might be even worse than their match at Judgment Day 2001. At least it’s good for a few laughs, like UT clearing off the timekeeper’s table before Austin rammed his head into it, or JR going on about how both UT and Austin are good guys, and really love the business. The crowd is so into the match that they yell “WHAT?” every time Austin connects with a punch or a chop, and chant “X-Pac Sucks” during one of their brawls on the floor. There’s a ton of punching, and very little else. Undertaker starts to work at Austin’s arm, and then decides to just repeatedly hit him in the forehead. Austin actually clutches it, for most of the match, as though it were bleeding and nobody else could see it. The UT chair finish falls into the same category as Hall’s ‘chain wrestling’, since Austin was holding his head, UT kicking the chair into it made it good psychology. Flair may be The Greatest Wrestler of All Time, but he’s a really bad referee. They spend five minutes on the floor and he doesn’t count them out. They both throw closed fist punches and he doesn’t call for a DQ. As preferable as a clean finish is on PPV, a count out or a DQ would at least shorten this up quite a bit, and even though he’s not much of a ref, he’d be a hell of a public servant. The two bumps Flair has to take are also comical, considering he’s The Greatest Wrestler of All Time. When the chair comes into play, Flair just stands there looking pretty, until Austin or UT get ready to use it. Flair also looks right at Austin’s foot on the rope, before he makes the three count. As poor as a ref as he was, Flair is the smartest one in the match, because he wears his red boots. And a good wrestler always has their gear with them.
BILLY GUNN/CHUCK PALUMBO © vs. AL SNOW/MAVEN (WWF Tag Team Titles)
Even though this is just a six-minute time filler, it’s better than the previous thirty-minute time filler. But it’s still only six minutes, so everything is pretty rushed. Billy and Chuck work over Maven, with more wrestling moves in one minute, than in thirty minutes of the previous match. Then they start to work over Snow, but Snow comes back by giving Billy a drop toehold headfirst into Chuck’s groin, for a moment of mind guttering humor. Billy and Chuck have some mis communication, and Rico’s interference backfires, so that Maven can get a few near falls to tease him getting his first big win, but Rico interferes again and distracts Snow, which causes Chuck to steal the win away from Maven. It’s nice that they kept it short, but it’s nothing that hadn’t already been done on TV several times before.
TRIPLE H © vs. HULK HOGAN (Undisputed WWF Heavyweight Title)
Somehow despite having potential to be even worse than Austin/UT, this manages to surprise and impress in a few aspects. The test of strength stuff was expected, given that both Hogan and HHH are better known for their physiques than their wrestling skills, their combined lack of skills also is responsible for a good portion of this being worked in the traditional WWF main event style, with plenty of brawling. However, things do start to pick up when HHH zeros in on Hogan’s knee. Even though he’s technically a babyface, HHH’s intensity both in his work, and his body language would make anyone not familiar with the storylines around this time think that he’s a heel. It’s a bit surprising that HHH actually did play by the rules here, heeling it up a bit wouldn’t have really detracted from the match at all, and if anything it’d have given the fans that much more reason to cheer on Hogan. HHH working the knee also carries some irony considering his rather famous leg injury he suffered the year before, as well as the fact that the match he won the title in, featured Jericho working over his leg a great deal.
HHH’s execution on some of the more complicated attacks on Hogan’s leg (anything that doesn’t involve striking it) is far from pretty, but he compensates with his intensity. The figure four HHH uses, would make Ric Flair laugh, makes Buddy Landell embarrassed to have the same nickname as someone associated with HHH, and cause Buddy Rogers to roll over in his grave. But HHH holding the ropes for the extra leverage adds a little something to it. When HHH does the simple leg lace, it looks akin to something that the NJPW rookies, or even the ROH wrestling school students would chuckle at, but the combo of the smirk and sneer on HHH’s face, shows that he knows he’s in control and he’s enjoying it. But just as important as HHH’s leg work, is Hogan’s selling during the leg work. Hogan has never been much of a seller, but he really does an admirable sell job when HHH is busting his knee, when he’s stuck in the figure four, he makes a fun little show out of trying and trying, until he finally gets the hold turned over and the pressure relieved. It’s just too bad that he didn’t think to continue selling either during, or after the Hulk-Up.
The usual nonsense with ref bumps and run-ins, tear down a bit of what they had going for them, although the ending is a really nice bit of irony. While HHH had several chance to take shortcuts and bend the rules, he chose not to, Jericho handed him the win on a silver platter and he turned it down. But when Undertaker does the same thing for Hogan, Hogan seizes the moment, and wins the title. Considering HHH is now actually the biggest heel in the WWE, both in the ring and behind the curtain, it’s bit of poetic justice to see him lose the title so soon after winning it, and lose it because he didn’t want to take a little shortcut.
Conclusion: There are a few pleasant surprises, but for the most part, this is a classic example of why the WWF was quickly going to hell in a handbasket in 2002. Recommendation to avoid.