July 29, 2002


Eddie Guerrero . . . shows exactly how great he still is by this point, even when his opponent doesn’t seem to have very much to offer.

Rob Van Dam . . . seemingly has to be dragged, almost kicking and screaming, to a very good TV match, which further illustrates Benoit’s greatness.

The Rock . . . pays some respect to Ric Flair in ways that neither HHH nor Shawn Michaels ever did.



Despite being absurdly short, this is watchable thanks to Eddie. He bumps and stooges early for Booker, and then he takes over with a big backdrop suplex and works over Booker’s back, and he’s as vicious and opportunistic as you’d expect. Eddie even busts out a camel clutch to keep things moving. When it’s time for his comeback Booker just stops selling and starts throwing punches, and the axe kick finish, after Eddie takes the bump into the exposed buckle, looks outright terrible. Eddie looked to be in top form here, and probably could have easily carried things enough for them to go for at least another ten minutes. But judging by how little Booker actually brought to the table, it’s probably for the best that this ended when it did.



It seems weird to think that the Molly/Trish exchanges are the highlight of this, but that’s what happened. Aside from a couple of ugly moments, namely Molly’s too-early-bump from the chick kick and the missed Molly-Go-Round that’s intentionally undershot, their work is surprisingly smooth throughout, and Trish is fired up enough to keep the match feeling exciting. Bubba and Show don’t do much of anything other than throw punches, and Bubba’s taped up hand is hardly even an issue for him. There are a couple of nicely timed moments as well, like Show hitting the ropes to knock Trish off the turnbuckle, and after Show had thwarted their first attempt at a double team, Bubba and Trish give Molly a doomsday device for the win. This wasn’t going to be anything great, but it’s remarkably watchable considering the people involved and the short length.


BRADSHAW © vs. JEFF HARDY (WWE Hardcore Title)

There’s really not a whole lot to say about this. The only real story is that Jeff uses the props as a means to counteract Bradshaw’s size and power, and he winds up getting Bradshaw to stay down for the swanton bomb after an absurd number of shots to the head with a trash can lid. There’s a couple of nice moments, but this is too rushed and too dependent on prop shots for them to really mean anything. It’s easy to see just how broken down and/or burned out that Jeff was getting by this point. And just in case the crowd was too happy to see Jeff get the win, we get instant run-ins to switch the title over a couple of more times.


ROB VAN DAM © vs. CHRIS BENOIT (WWE Intercontinental Title)

As long as RVD was following Benoit’s lead, this was a damn fine TV match. Benoit is every bit as good as Eddie was when he’s picking apart the shoulder, and he gets a lot more time to work with than Eddie was afforded. Benoit also gets the bonus of being able to make it count for something by using the crossface. For his part, RVD does a great sell job, and he also takes a couple of huge bumps for Benoit’s suplexes, as well as a nasty shoulder bump into the post. The problems start when RVD makes his first comeback, he just starts throwing kicks and completely forgets about Benoit tearing apart his shoulder, even when there are times when it would have been appropriate to sell it. The near fall from the rolling cradle is a good example of this, there was no reason that he couldn’t have lost the hold because of the strain that it was putting on his shoulder. The Rolling Thunder is another case where he could have kept the weakened shoulder in mind, considering he always puts over his frog splash finisher as hard contact even when he’s winning with it. But we don’t see any of that from RVD, he just throws his kicks and does his usual flying and flipping spots, and he doesn’t do anything to make his shoulder seem important until Benoit goes back to it.


Benoit also provides the smartest moment of the entire match, when he rolls a bit to deflect the frog splash. RVD still connects with it, but Benoit doesn’t take the brunt of it, and when RVD tries to follow up, Benoit takes him down into the crossface. RVD’s selling and reactions when he’s in the hold are great, but once he gets the rope break, he’s seemingly determined to sell as little as possible. He connects a couple of kicks and takes Benoit down with a leg sweep and surprises him with a cradle, but Benoit counters him right back into the crossface. And when he breaks it and reverse into a cradle, Benoit counters into one of his own and uses the ropes to win the title. Honestly, the ropes weren’t necessary in the least, other than to reinforce the notion that Benoit is a heel. Everyone knows he’s good enough to outwrestle RVD, and with him having a bad shoulder they could have done the exact same sequence without using the ropes and nobody would have batted an eyelash at it.


It's really a shame too, because if RVD had just been better about keeping the shoulder in mind when he was on offense, then this could have easily been one of the best matches of the entire year. And it’s not like he’d have had to make any huge adjustments to his work. He could have just done little things to show that it was more of a struggle than usual to do something, or that Benoit’s attack on his shoulder was making some of his usual spots work against him just as much as they were working against Benoit. Regardless, this speaks volumes about just how great Benoit was at this point, that he could crank out a TV match this good, despite Van Dam’s inconsistent, and at times mediocre, performance. ***1/4



This almost isn’t worth mentioning, seeing as the match itself is just a backdrop for the angle of UT getting beaten down by the Un-Americans, and the angle probably lasts longer than the match. Nowinski only gets in token jobber offense anyway (shoulder tackle, dropkick, lariat) and UT runs through him with his usual stuff. If nothing else, Nowinski takes a decent sized bump from the Last Ride.



Honestly, this could have easily been Flair’s retirement match. It’s nothing amazing, or really even that good, but it’s something of a dream match and it doesn’t overstay its welcome or do anything ridiculous. There isn’t a whole lot that Flair was still capable of by this point (just look at their ugly attempt at doing Rock’s spinebuster), but Rocky puts everything over like it matters. His selling and reactions to Flair’s chops are overblown in the right ways. There are several smart touches with them countering each other’s big move to get to something of their own, with Flair’s takedown when Rocky wants the People’s Elbow being especially nice. They even have a little fun mocking each other with Rocky doing the strut and Flair spitting on his fist before he drops Rock with a punch. They don’t go overboard at the finish either, Rock hits a single Rock Bottom and gets the pin. They probably could have gone for another five minutes and let Flair do some more familiar stuff (both the corner flip and the failed attempt to come off the top rope fail to make an appearance), but this is still nice for what it is.


Conclusion: As a whole, this is a decidedly not bad TV show. It’s always nice to get a reminder of exactly how great Eddie and Benoit were during this time period, and the main event is a much bigger show of respect to Flair than those unnecessarily long “epic” matches were.