August 7, 2003 (taped 8/5)
The fallout from Vengeance and the build to SummerSlam begins! Cena gets a rematch with Undertaker, Benoit gets another shot at Guerrero and gets revenge on Rhyno! Mysterio gets Haas in singles action. But the big story is that Brock Lesnar gets a chance to earn a WWE Title shot!
Zach Gowen . . . may have accomplished his dream to be a WWE wrestler, but now he’s getting a taste of reality.
John Cena . . . gets his big win over Undertaker, but without all of the things that made their previous match work so well.
Brock Lesnar . . . makes a huge statement on his way to SummerSlam, at Kurt Angle’s expense.
CHRIS BENOIT vs. EDDIE GUERRERO
Like their Vengeance match, this is pretty good, but it’s also marred by booking and interference. The best things about this match are the way that both Benoit and Guerrero put over even the most simple and basic of moves. Just watch the way Eddie sells Benoit’s chops, he doesn’t flop around like a fish out of water, he puts them over in a realistic, and convincing manner. Benoit gives similar respect to Eddie’s slingshot senton, and when Eddie works over Benoit’s arm for a bit, and puts on a simple armbar, Benoit also goes a bit extra to put it over. A lot of the match is ground oriented, which isn’t to be expected, and the crowd doesn’t quite know how to react, but it works in the vein of trying to make their big spots mean more, such as Eddie’s damn near dead sell job of the big powerbomb. But typical WWE booking sinks in, and Benoit’s headbutt is thwarted by Rhyno, and then Tajiri hits the ring to get some of Eddie. The match is thrown out and turned into a tag match.
CHRIS BENOIT/TAJIRI vs. EDDIE GUERRERO/RHYNO
The finish run is fun, with Benoit getting a measure of revenge by making Guerrero tap out to the crossface, but aside from a few bright spots, it’s not as good as one would think with Benoit, Guerrero, and Tajiri involved. Part of the reason is that the commercial break cuts of the beginning of the match, so the action is joined in time to see Benoit taking a little abuse and hot tagging Tajiri, Tajiri cleans house but predictably goes for the Tarantula too early and gets blind sided by Eddie. This is where the match takes a bit of a nosedive, Rhyno and Tajiri work the bulk of the match from here, pretty much how you’d expect, and it just dies for the most part, unless Tajiri finds a way to work in a hope spot and try to make the tag, only for the heels to put the kibosh on it. The actual hot tag does score a few points for originality, with Rhyno again knocking Benoit off the apron, but Tajiri tagging him on the way down, so the heels don’t know that he’s the legal man. Eddie his Tajiri with the Frog splash, opening up himself for the crossface and he taps out. There’s things to like about the match, but there’s nothing here that really stands out.
ZACH GOWEN vs. NUNZIO
It’s too bad that I wasn’t watching WWE at this time, the Hardy/Gown ‘V1 vs. 1 Leg’ feud must have been tremendous. Speaking of tremendous, you’re not going to find any of that here, the closest is Matt and Shannon Moore on commentary, with Moore playing B’Lo to Hardy’s Crock, and parroting him. There are some pretty things in the match, like Nunzio trapping Gowen in the corner and trying to leg sweep him, but forgetting there isn’t a leg there to sweep. Nunzio also bumps like a pinball for Gowen, even when his offense looks ugly, but Gowen does pull off a few nice things, like the moonsault while Nunzio is in the ropes, and the spin kick to the face. Of course this is also the third match, and we’ve yet to see a clean finish, Matt and Shannon distract Gown and Nunzio hits a big lariat for the win. It’s really too bad that the ref ejected Palumbo and Stamboli, I wouldn’t mind seeing Gown get whacked like Nathan Jones.
JOHN CENA vs. THE UNDERTAKER
This was supposed to be Cena’s big win that allowed him to move up the ladder. But seeing how this is played out, it’s no surprise that it wasn’t until months after this that Cena finally started to move up the card. The biggest reason is that UT takes about 90% of the match and just bumps Cena all over the place. UT beats him in the ring, they go the floor and he beats on him some more, I don’t think I’ve ever seen UT successfully go ‘Old School’ twice in one match, let alone twice in a row, but that’s what happens here. Cena isn’t able to get anything going until UT’s rib injuries of the PPV come back to haunt him, and that’s only due to UT hitting a big superplex and aggravating the injury, rather than anything Cena did.
To his credit, Cena bumps and sells well enough for UT, even though he’s not exactly given much of a daunting task. When UT hurts the ribs, Cena is fun with sharking in on the injury, and luckily, UT is gracious enough to return the sell job. The fun doesn’t last very long though, and UT goes back to bumping Cena around again. The ref goes down, A-Train hits the ring, UT fends him off at first but gets hit with the big boot and a backbreaker. Cena covers for two and hits the FU for the win. They really needed this finish (Cena winning) with the sort of match they had at Vengeance. The only thing that Cena can actually take out of this match is the fact that he won. The PPV match actually made Cena look ten times better in defeat, than this did in victory.
DOUG BASHAM vs. JAMIE NOBLE
It seems weird to think of a five minute filler match, that’s only taking place to advance an angle that nobody cares about, as being a smart match, but here it is happening. The match is simple and straightforward enough, Shaniqua gets Basham ‘in the zone’ by whipping him before the match, and Basham basically explodes all over Noble with lots of forearm shots and slams. Noble sucks up the pain, and when Basham tires himself out and grabs a chinlock, Noble hits a big backdrop suplex to counter, and follows up with a swinging neckbreaker. Noble gets Irish whipped into the corner, and a still groggy Basham charges into a boot (complete with Basham holding his head for a second after the Irish whip to show he was still groggy). Noble goes for the pin after a big elbow off the top, but Danny Basham distracts the ref, Noble dispatches him, and then reverts back to his wrestling skills and small packages Basham for the first clean finish of the night. This is probably as good example of any as to how much of an asset Noble was to the promotion, and why they eventually signed him back in 2005.
REY MYSTERIO vs. CHARLIE HAAS
This was fun, but, as seems to be the case with WWE TV matches, they didn’t have enough time to develop everything as much as they should have. The story is simple enough, Rey and Kidman get a rematch next week for the titles, and with Kidman not at the arena that night, it’s a perfect chance to soften up Rey. Haas’ choice of working over the back makes enough sense and it makes for some fun viewing, especially when Haas busts out something truly sick like the Torture Rack variation, and then sits out with it, and Haas even does what he can to make the bear hug look like a genuine method of attack, rather than rest hold.
Lack of time wasn’t the only thing that held them back, though, Rey had to look at least somewhat competitive going into the match, and while Haas did what he could to bump and sell for him, Rey eventually had to take to the air, and it wound up negating a lot of the effort Haas and Rey put into getting the back work over. It’s obvious for Rey to take to the air, but there isn’t any need for him to be doing springboard somersault dropkicks, or hitting the drop toehold into the ropes, and doing a jumping back flip off Haas’ back before the 619. The West Coast Pop fails, and Rey gets trapped in the Haas of Pain (which hurts the knee rather than the back), and winds up completely upside down before tapping. There’s fun to be had here, but Rey’s need to be overly flashy, and the finishing hold put on for no reason other than because it’s the finishing hold leave a bad taste to what was a pretty fun outing.
BROCK LESNAR vs. VINCE McMAHON (Steel Cage Match)
I probably shouldn’t even list this as a match, but the angle was awesome in setting up the Angle/Lesnar SummerSlam match. Brock was supposedly attacked in the back, and hoists up Vince for the F-5 when he pulls a Shawn Michaels and collapses in the ring. Kurt Angle (the special referee) wants to get help, but Vince insists that Angle first allow him to pin Brock. Angle won’t allow it, Vince slaps him, Angle attacks him and Brock jumps to his feet and thrashes the bejesus out of Angle. Again, I wasn’t watching WWE at this time, but if I’d seen this when it happened, I’d damn sure be looking forward to SummerSlam and their title match.
Conclusion: The main event/angle at the end certainly did it’s job, but the rest of the show left something to be desired. The Cena/UT match was a huge letdown, and the fun stuff was just filler, recommendation to avoid this time around, nothing worth going out of your way to see here.