May 18, 2003
As I’ve mentioned before there was a stretch in 2003 when I wasn’t watching the WWE at all, and this show (which took place the same night as my college graduation) , sadly, is fairly indicative of why. Good wrestlers are put in no-win situations, and mediocre wrestlers are fully on display.
Chris Benoit . . . gets a whopping three minutes and fifty eight seconds to ply his trade.
Scott Steiner . . . is undoubtably the master of the arm flex elbow drop.
Brock Lesnar . . . could have been the ‘master of the stretcher match’ if he hadn’t left the WWE.
CHRIS BENOIT/RHYNO/SPANKY vs. JOHN CENA/CHUCK PALUMBO/JOHNNY STAMBOLI
This is criminally short considering both the talent involved, and the fact that this is on pay-per-view. Why would a match involving six guys only get about four minutes? The time is mostly well spent. Spanky takes his beating from the FBI like a man, the double flapjack was especially brutal, and Palumbo slapping on the bear hug right after was a technically sound moment, although he didn’t do anything to make the hold seem like the means to an end. Spanky’s comeback spot was a bit flubbed, but covered nicely, and his blind tag to Benoit to start off the finish was nice as well. Benoit made a good hot tag, with the way he just ran though the heels. Rhyno’s only contribution was the Gore on Nunzio, and Cena’s only notable addition was the pre-match rap. Spanky takes the most punishment, including a shiner from getting hit with the Kiss of Death by the FBI for the win. So yeah, it’s mostly the Spanky show, way too short to do anything, but still fun.
SYLVAIN GRENIER/RENE DUPREE vs. SCOTT STEINER/TEST
When La Resistance is bumping around for Test and Steiner, this is bearable, and luckily, Test and Steiner hog most of the offense. Sadly, neither Test nor Steiner employs a vast array of offense so while it’s fun to see La Resistance bump around, the action itself is very repetitive and predictable. Punch, kick, lariat, boot, occasional suplex from Steiner. When one of the highlights is Steiner doing pushups, something is wrong. When La Resistance tries to take over, it’s a joke because (a. they can’t do anything worth a damn, and (b. Test and Steiner don’t sell worth a damn. It’s telling enough that the only plausible near falls are thanks to underhanded tactics like feet on the ropes, but the icing on the cake is that Test’s inadvertent boot to Steiner had more effect than anything La Resistance did, including their double spine buster finisher.
CHARLIE HAAS/SHELTON BENJAMIN © vs. EDDIE GUERRERO/TAJIRI (WWE Tag Team Titles - Ladder Match)
After the first two matches, this is certainly a breath of fresh air. It’s not totally one-sided with a copout ending, and it gets enough time to play out, but it’s still not without problems. First and foremost is that being a ladder match, it’s almost counterproductive to the workers themselves. They’re all more than capable of going out there and putting on a good show, just by working a regular tag match and telling a story. And now with Chavo injured and Tajiri replacing him, the chance is even greater because of Eddie and Tajiri’s lack of experience teaming. Instead however, the match itself is pretty much a spotfest, and at times it’s not a well-executed one, look no further than Tajiri’s botched plancha, or Eddie slipping while doing the sunset flip powerbomb to see that. Aside from the opening moments with Eddie really taking the fight to Haas, you wouldn’t even know that Eddie and Team Angle had a long-standing feud going on.
While they’re not as well executed as they could be, all four do bring some rather interesting and creative ideas for ways to use the ladder other than climbing. Tajiri’s handspring into the ladder to knock Haas and Benjamin off was nice. And Team Angle using the ladder to assist in their signature double team looked sick (in a good way). I do have to question the wisdom in Eddie doing his slingshot senton to Haas while he was between ladders, I’ve never been of the belief that any good can come from diving onto a totally exposed ladder, regardless of whether or not someone is underneath it. And thankfully, all four also manage to sell like death at one point or another to at least make the crazy spots mean something. Haas’ facial expression for the double baseball slide into the groin was priceless. And after Tajiri gets clocked in the head with the ladder while he had Haas in the Tarantula, we don’t see him again until he crawls into the ring to spray Shelton with the Green mist and allow Eddie to get the belts in a predictable, but still fun, ending. The lack of a real story is frustrating, especially with the good workers that are involved, but looking at what preceded the match, it’s best to just count your blessings and move on.
BATTLE ROYAL (WWE Intercontinental Title)
If the match had actually picked a pace and stuck with it consistently, it might not have been that bad. But it doesn’t do that, in less than five minutes it’s already down to the final four, and aside from Rob Van Dam flying off the apron and splatting on the floor, from Jericho’s dropkick, none of the eliminations are anything special or unique. When it’s down the Booker T/Goldust vs. Jericho/Christian the pace slows right down, and they basically kill time. Jericho and Christian hammer away on the faces for a bit, and then they make the comeback, with Goldust doing the shattered dreams, and Booker doing the Spinaroonie, before Goldust’s attempt to eliminate Booker backfires, and he’s the one eliminated. Then the Canadians double team Booker for a bit, before Christian eliminates Jericho in what is, quite honestly, the best battle royal elimination ever. And then the ref gets bumped, Booker eliminates Christian, Christian sneaks in, KO’s Booker with the title and throws him out when the ref is revived to win the title. A battle royal can’t even be won cleanly anymore, *sigh* only in the WWE.
Mr. AMERICA vs. RODDY PIPER
Praise the Lord. This is kept short. Just replace Sean O’Haire with Cowboy Bob and you’ve got basically the same match they’d have had in 1985 on fast forward. Piper attacks Hogan from behind, and Hogan gets the upper hand. O’Haire runs interference and Piper gets control again, coming ever so close to the win, until Hogan Hulks up. Vince McMahon tries to help out, in the same role Orndorff or Muraco would have had back in ‘85, but it backfires and Hogan gets the win after the legdrop. If nothing else, Piper’s goofy selling and facials during the post Hulk-Up were amusing. Thankfully, the ending with Zach Gowen holding Vince back allowed for the McMahon/Gowen feud, which was eons more entertaining than this.
TRIPLE H © vs. KEVIN NASH (World Heavyweight Title)
If nothing else, this match actually made me appreciate HHH just a bit more. Kevin Nash was about as useless as they come, no-selling everything, including going headfirst into the exposed corner, and taking a bad bump of HHH’s Pedigree. HHH basically sells his ass off for Nash’s offense, which isn’t anything other than punches, kicks, elbows, and Nash’s three moves (sidewalk slam, Snake Eyes, and Jackknife). In addition to his selling, HHH gets in the best strike of the match, with his almost SUWA-like punt to the Gonads. It’s eerily similar to the HHH/Scott Steiner feud from early 2003, only this time with HHH actually trying to salvage things. HHH sells to the point that getting himself DQ ‘d by hitting the ref with the sledgehammer was the only way he was going to leave with the title, and the rematch with extra stipulation makes perfect sense.
JAZZ © vs. TRISH STRATUS vs. JACQUELINE vs. VICTORIA (WWE Women’s Title)
What a mess this was. If Molly Holly was in place of Jacqueline, it may not have been that bad. This isn’t so much a case of working a match, as it is a bit of an exhibition of what they can all do. Jazz and Trish have the best exchanges, Victoria is good too, but Jacqueline is a drain for most of the match, and only drags down whomever she’s paired off with. The only theme to the match is Jazz being a bit paranoid about having the title stolen from her (read: the match ending with her not involved in the finish) and there are a few instances of Jazz being unsure of what to do. At one point she’s got Trish in an STF, but looking over at Jacqueline wrenching a half crab on Victoria, and Jazz debates whether or not to keep the hold applied to go break it up. Trish’s elimination from the match, with Victoria chucking her over the top when she attempts the Stratusfaction, with a quasi Suicide bump is the only real highlight. And Jazz finishes off Victoria by splashing Jacqueline (who was pinning her), and then pins Jacqueline after her DDT, all withing thirty seconds of Trish getting dispatched, just to make the pecking order that much clearer. It’d have been interesting to see Jazz ‘steal’ the win herself, after how worried she was about having it stolen from her, but it’s not like this match was really supposed to serve any great purpose.
BROCK LESNAR © vs. THE BIG SHOW (WWE Heavyweight Title - Stretcher Match)
If you haven’t seen two big guys, one of which is a pretty damn good wrestler, spend fifteen minutes beating each other with stretchers, then you, my friend, haven’t lived. There’s nothing really *bad* about the match, it’s just that after five minutes of seeing Brock and Show take turns hitting each other with the stretcher, it gets a bit dull. Brock comes up with a few creative ideas, like body slamming Show onto the stretcher, and the big tackle from the apron onto the stretcher. And with as often as they’d worked together, they’ve got their timing down good. The Irish whip reversal to chokeslam spots looks almost seamless, and Show found a way to take the F-5 that doesn’t look bad.
The only thing the match really lacks is any real long term selling. Brock basically throws Show all over the stretcher, and it’s got no immediate effect. Lesnar gets chucked into the post, bumps his head something nasty in the process, and then jumps to his feet and hits Show with the tackle off the apron. Show sells the 619 to his ribs from Mysterio (who ran in while Brock was getting the forklift) better than anything else. The bit with the forklift was rather amusing, and it had a little build with Brock breaking one of the stretchers while attempting to wheel Show down the aisle. It ends the show on a better note than the HHH/Nash match would have, but just like the ladder match, it’s counter productive and a waste of talent to use Brock in matches like this.
Conclusion: The judgment on this day is not a good one. There are things to like about the two gimmick matches, but both of those matches are held back by the gimmicks. Unless you’re a WWE PPV completest, it’s best to just skip this completely.