September 18, 2013 (taped 9/16/03)
Chris Benoit . . . makes a good attempt, but isn’t able to salvage a throwaway tag match.
Los Guerreros . . . win tag team gold in true Guerrero fashion, by cheating!
Brock Lesnar . . . once again proves just how much of a superior worker he is to Kurt Angle.
CHRIS BENOIT/REY MYSTERIO vs. RHYNO/TAJIRI
You’d think a tag match between these four would be, at least, good, but, not with this little time to work with. It looks like they might be going somewhere with the heels going after Benoit’s ribs after Tajiri does the Tarantula. Rhyno follows up with a big spine buster, shoulder tackles in the corner, and then Benoit takes the front corner bump. But, just after that, Benoit turns over a backdrop suplex, tags Rey, and it’s forgotten about. Once Rey is in, any semblance of order or structure is gone, Tajiri mists Rhyno by mistake and Rey finishes him off with the 619 and springboard legdrop. There’s just no reason for Rey to be pinning Rhyno, especially after so little offense. It’s fine to protect Tajiri going into his Cruiserweight Title match with Rey, but, they needed either more time to work with, or some kind of big spot or an assist from Benoit to make the finish more believable.
SHANIQUA vs. TORRIE WILSON/NIDIA
Shaniqua actually managed to impress me, with her animated selling while Nidia was chopping her, and Nidia and Torrie had a couple of nice ideas, like the jawbreaker into the cradle. But, like the tag match, it’s too short to accomplish anything. Torrie and Nidia’s offense is just a stall tactic, and once they run out of things to do, Shaniqua easily dispatches them.
CHARLIE HAAS/SHELTON BENJAMIN © vs. EDDIE GUERRERO/CHAVO GUERRERO (WWE Tag Team Titles)
Even this isn’t given enough time to fully develop, and it’s longer than both of the previous matches combined. They follow the formula to a tee, with all the usual developments, but they wind up rushing everything because they have so little time to work with. Haas and Benjamin do a decent job at sharking on Chavo’s arm (this is his first match back after a biceps injury), but, as soon as it’s there, it’s gone because they need to start setting up Eddie’s tag. As a result, the hot tag is more like the lukewarm tag. The finishing stretch is good, with the champions trying to cheat with chairs, but Chavo chop blocks Shelton to take him out, and then Haas does an ode to Kikuchi on a double flapjack. They finish Haas with the brainbuster and frog splash, but even the reaction to them winning the tag titles isn’t what you’d expect.
KURT ANGLE © vs. BROCK LESNAR (WWE Heavyweight Title - Iron Man Match)
To no surprise at all (at least to me), Brock puts in the better performance here. He brings the heel attitude, which was noticeably lacking during the SummerSlam match, combined with the paranoia from having tapped out on the second biggest show of the year. His bumping and selling are as good as they’ve ever been, and, when he’s in control, he makes things look all but hopeless for Angle. As far as Iron Man Matches go, this one is rather busy, there’s very little obvious stalling, or time killing to be seen. The only bit of it is early on, with Brock bailing to the floor, and rolling in to break the count, and then rolling out. But, even that works in its own way, to play off Brock’s paranoia at Angle getting his leg for the Ankle lock. The other smart aspect of this match is that spots that would normally be throwaway are actually given meaning. Brock gets a fall with a superplex, and Angle gets one with his overhead off the top. Under normal circumstances, neither spot means all that much, but, in this context, they actually matter.
Nobody would ever confuse the work here, with that of a big UWFI match, but, the structure is actually somewhat similar. UWFI used their point system to effectively create drama and control how the match plays out. The falls in this match are similarly used. Angle technically scores the first fall: a DQ when Brock clobbers him with the chair, but, Brock easily scores a pin after an F-5. The score is tied, but the match is anything but equal. This is another case of Brock being the better performer here. He’s smart enough to use the rules to his advantage. A bit later, he gives Angle another F-5 on the floor and lets him get counted out to give him the lead. Kurt gets the same opportunity late in the match, but, stupidly, tries to get Brock into the ring, and, mistakes like that eventually catch up with him when the clock runs out and Brock is ahead on points.
As good a performance as Brock puts in, this is still a Kurt Angle match, and it’s got most of the usual problems that Kurt’s matches have. Even with this much time to work with, he’s still more concerned with throwing out as many suplexes and bombs as he can, rather than trying to genuinely build the match. The Ankle lock is devalued just as much as ever. Kurt gets the hold and Brock rolls through, or crawls to the ropes to break. Brock is great at putting over the pain from the hold, but, Kurt doesn’t do anything to take advantage of that opening. The closest he comes is giving Brock the F-5 into the post, which is more a receipt for Brock than it is anything else. Kurt eventually gets one submission from the move, but, like SummerSlam, it comes after Brock had already crawled to the ropes and been pulled back. After Brock makes the ropes the first time, why doesn’t Kurt do the grapevine to keep Brock in place? Kurt does that as the match is in the final seconds, but, it’s too late, Brock sees there are only seconds to go, and takes the pain and lets time run out. Compare that to how lethally the F-5 is treated, the only time it doesn’t work is when Brock does the one-legged F-5, because he’s selling his ankle. Hell, Brock makes the Ankle lock look ten times more lethal than Angle does when he locks it in for a near instant submission. But, that’s pretty much par for the course, there isn’t much of anything that Kurt can do, that Brock can’t do far better. ***1/4
Conclusion: The main event is good, but good is about it. And, it’s actually the best of the Lesnar/Angle series. Nothing was outright bad, but, at the same time, nothing stood out at all.