April 17, 2003 (taped 4/15/03)
Now that WrestleMania XIX is behind us, the next season of WWE action is off and running. Chris Benoit locks up with John Cena, the big guys sell for the little guys, divas try to wrestle *and* to referee, and the FBI whacks someone.
A-Train . . . stumbles around like a drunk man for someone he outweighs by at least 100 lbs.
Sable . . . works as a terrible referee to distract the fact that she’s reffing a terrible women’s match.
Johnny Stamboli . . . does the world a public service by attempting to rid it of Nathan Jones.
THE BIG SHOW/A-TRAIN vs. REY MYSTERIO/TAJIRI
For two guys who’ve got an at-times well-deserved reputation for being big untalented lugs, Show and Train both do a surprisingly decent job of putting over Rey and Tajiri’s offense. Big Show is completely knocked on his ass from Rey’s 619 around the post. And Train really goes above and beyond to put over Tajiri’s kicks, and it’s telling enough that Show even needed to make the save after Tajiri’s roundhouse. The only time the match loses steam is when Train and Show work over Rey, because they don’t have anything they could do to him that doesn’t look like it’d all but kill him. The one big bump he takes is off Show’s one-handed press slam, and it’s enough to put him out of the match. That the heels needed to double team Tajiri to finish him off is somewhat of a rub I suppose, although it reeks of the WWE mentality that heels can’t win clean if all possible. But I’m counting my blessings that Rey and Tajiri got in anything at all, let alone actually got to look good in there.
EDDIE GUERRERO vs. JAMIE NOBLE
Considering Los Guerreros were going into a WWE Tag Team Title match at Backlash. It’d make more sense to put them in a tag team match, rather than sticking Eddie in a meaningless singles match. The match itself is too short to really accomplish anything, and is mostly a punch and kick sort of affair, with only Noble’s counter into his swinging neckbreaker really standing out. Aside from Chavo intercepting Nidia so Eddie could hit the Frog Splash, there’s a distinct lack of cheating. Clean finishes are usually preferred, but with Los Guerreros opponents watching from the ramp, there was a chance to build up some heat for the match in a more effective manner than insulting interviews with double entendres.
TORRIE WILSON vs. NIDIA
The best way to sum this up is a quote from Ron White of Blue Collar Comedy fame. “The next time you have a thought just let it go.” Aside from Torrie’s cross body press off the top, this is about as embarrassing as it gets. Nidia screws up a simple back body drop, Sable’s referring is almost as bad as the wrestling, as she’s frequently out of position, and counts like she’s trying to not break a nail. The money flip reversal spot they do is somewhat passable, but the Torrie’s Tornado DDT that comes out of it, and gets her the win, is terrible.
MATT HARDY © vs. BRIAN KENDRICK (WWE Cruiserweight Title)
Like most WWE TV matches, this is too rushed to accomplish much, but it still manages to be better than Matt/Rey from WrestleMania, by virtue of Matt not looking like a goon with gold. Shannon Moore only gets involved once, to distract Kendrick so Matt can attack him to start off. Kendrick unloads on Matt with an impressive arsenal, including a sick DDT counter, and Matt makes him look like a legit threat to his title, of which he was anything but. The end boils down the simple WWE philosophy of he who hits his finisher wins as Matt blocks the Sliced Bread #2 and plants him with the Twist of Fate. It makes Matt look like smarter wrestler by seizing the moment and taking the opening, instead of the cheater that his WrestleMania title defense had him looking like.
There is an alleged match between Nunzio and Nathan Jones, which features Jones no-selling everything from Nunzio until the rest of the FBI run in for a DQ. They beat Jones down, break his ankle with the stairs, and put him out of action (and more importantly, off TV). Which gives me one more reason to appreciate Johnny Stamboli’s existence (the other being that he helped start the Voodoo Murders).
CHRIS BENOIT vs. JOHN CENA (#1 Contender’s match for the WWE Heavyweight Title)
Although this has the clean finish that was lacking in their match the following December (which ironically enough had the same stipulation), it’s not really superior to the later match in any other way. Cena really isn’t too bad here, aside from a couple extended chinlocks in the early going, he’s generally pretty good on offense. It helps that his offense is all centered around going after Benoit’s neck, so Cena generally stays focused and doesn’t sidetrack too much. While Cena is technically proficient, he’s not always that interesting and his execution is hit or miss at times. His Hotshot and Snake Eyes are okay, but some of his other stuff, like the reverse Blockbuster and Blue Thunder driver looks pretty bad. Benoit doesn’t get much in, but the little that he does get in, kills Cena as far execution goes.
Where the match is mostly lacking is in long term selling. Cena is good at putting over the pain of Benoit’s chops and Germans. And Benoit is good at selling when Cena is going after his neck. But there’s nothing in the long term that either of them does to put over cumulative effects of the match. And having had his neck worked on or not, Benoit’s neck is undoubtably sore after doing a German, and after hitting or missing (missing in this case) the diving headbutt, but you’d never know it. The finish they have is a nice, and clean, change of pace. Cena’s counter of the Crossface to the (then unnamed) FU is a nice touch, given that he’d already been trapped in the hold once, and blocking Benoit’s sunset flip counter for the win puts over Cena by outsmarting and outwrestling Benoit, as opposed to pulling the tights or grabbing the ropes.
Conclusion: This more or less accomplished what the WWE TV shows are supposed to accomplish, and that’s generate excitement for Backlash. The main event was set up, and the Tag Title match was built up to a little. Plus the bonus of Nathan Jones getting whacked.