July 27, 2003

It’s like yin and yang. The first RAW PPV was an abomination, but when Smackdown! steps up to the plate for their first crack on PPV, they knock one out of the park! SD was always the ‘wrestling show’ and shows like this make it that much more sad that they always got the rap of being the B show.

Eddie Guerrero . . . doesn’t allow stupid WWE overbooking to stop him from putting on a good match.

Haas and Benjamin . . . finally have a match on PPV where they’re allowed to actually live up to their name.

John Cena . . . puts on a damn fine showing in a big singles match with The Undertaker.

CHRIS BENOIT vs. EDDIE GUERRERO (WWE United States Title Tournament Finals)

You can’t complain about an opener like this. The overbooking at the end is as silly as ever, and it’s fairly typical of the promotion, but it was coming along nicely before then. Benoit and Guerrero did what they did best, showed why they’re all time greats. The offense was kept fairly simple, and their selling was top notch the whole way through. If it’s possible, their selling was almost *too* good. There were a couple of parts where it seemed like a spot should have led to an extended control segment, but instead they moved it along. The biggest example there being when Benoit got hit with a backdrop suplex, and sold his back and neck area awesomely, but the back and neck never really got singled out. The same thing after the shoulder breaker and crossface attempt, Guerrero was great selling the arm, but Benoit never went after it again. The really great thing about the match is watching how great they both were at taking and creating openings for themselves. Benoit countering the tilt-a-whirl into a shoulder breaker was an especially nice moment, as was his crossface counter when Guerrero escaped the German suplex.

In addition to the overbooking for the finish, a few less finishers would have been nice, the Frog splash after the belt shot in particular should have been the actual finish, and Benoit kicking out only devalues it. The crossface attempts were a bit excessive, although those are somewhat more forgivable due to them being so familiar with each other, that it makes sense that Chris would have problems getting it firmly locked on. The finish with Rhyno hitting the ring and spearing Benoit, to finally let Eddie hit the Frog splash and get the win, is just a waste. It’d have been much better served in a rematch for the title. Thankfully, Benoit and Guerrero were good enough here that the booking didn’t completely detract from what they’d done. ***


This is fun, it’s rather mindless fun, but it’s still fun nonetheless. Billy could have done to sell his knee that Noble had worked over for a bit, seeing as that was supposed to be the excuse for not hitting the Fame-Asser, as well as the only reason Noble even had a prayer. The Nidia and Torrie stuff was also pretty funny, with neither of them wanting Noble to win. Noble bumps like a freak for Gunn, and then gets the win via O’Connor roll with the tights. Torrie’s and Noble’s reactions are both awesome.

We’ll just skip over the APA Barroom Brawl. Much like the last match, it was mindless fun, but it wasn’t a match. And unlike the Redneck Triathlon, it’s only one segment long.


The opener alone was better than anything from Badd Blood, but it still had the overbooking to drag it down. Here, we’ve got all the good wrestling and none of the stupid overbooking. All wrapped up in a simple formula tag match. There is a lot (and let me stress a lot) of things to like here, but for me, the best part of the match was the fact that Rey and Kidman weren’t above using a few of the tactics that Haas and Benjamin like to employ, such as Rey tripping up Benjamin to prevent the leapfrog/stun gun combo (and moments later Shelton returns the favor to prevent the 619), Kidman going after Haas when the ref had his back turned to put Shelton out of the match, and Kidman also giving Haas a cheap shot knee in the back from the apron. It went a long way in giving Rey and Kidman some credence to knock off the tag champions. Sure, they’d teamed in WCW a bunch, but their WWE careers had never featured them as a tag team to reckon with. Between their fun spots on offense, the champs’ selling, and their willingness to get a little dirty, they went a long way in making this match as good as it was. The only real drawback was that at times their offense looked a little too much like RVD or Dragon Kid, being flashy just to be flashy. There wasn’t any need to Kidman to do a springboard SSP to the floor, nor was there a great need for Rey to do big somersault kick on his hot tag. Spots like that are more the exceptions than the rule though, as Kidman even makes his usually overly-flashy powerbomb counter look pretty reasonable.

Haas and Benjamin are also up to task here, doing a great job in putting over the challengers offense, and making it seem like the somewhat thrown together team could leave with the gold. Just listen to the crowd reaction to the great near fall from Rey’s top rope rana. And when they get to tear apart Kidman’s back after whipping him into the post, complete with a sick bump from Kidman, and they bring their own good offense. I’ve never seen Tazz use the ‘Redhook Wringer’ (a sort of bridging bow and arrow) but I’ll take his word for it, it’s awesome looking at any rate. As well as stretching him in the corner, and actually successfully giving him a powerbomb. Not to mention the finish with, sadly, the only blind tag spot of the match, as Shelton blind tags himself and Rey gets planted with a springboard reverse bulldog. After being underwhelming in their last few PPV matches, the champions finally stepped up and showed why they were the champions. ***1/2


If you’re looking for a decent women’s match, look elsewhere, neither of these two can work to save their lives, but they do a least bring some intensity to what they do. Watching this is an exercise in multitasking, as you’ll be constantly wincing from the terrible looking strikes, but having to double take at the facials of Stephanie when she looks like she wants to rib Sable’s head off. You can count the wrestling moves done on one hand, and the strikes range from shockingly decent, like Sable’s big punt to the ribs, to laughable, like Stephanie’s ‘McMahon slap’ to the face. Sable loses her top (again) and while the ref is tending to her, A-Train hits the ring and runs Stephanie down so Sable can win. Next!


Hey this is quite good too! Aside from the FU getting disrespected in the end, this pretty much goes exactly how it should have gone considering the storyline going into it (which is helpfully recapped in a video package). UT makes him pay the price for shooting his mouth off by beating him all over the ring, and onto the floor, and UT had the match won five minutes in when he hit the big chokeslam. But UT makes a big mistake, he opts to continue to beat on Cena, when simply getting the win so quickly would have basically humbled him and been a far more effective means of payback, than whatever else UT could have done to him.

Cena makes UT pay the ultimate price for his choice, first when he removes the pad from the turnbuckle and UT charges into it, and Cena spent about five minutes trying to get the pad off, still selling the can of the ass-whip that UT had opened up on him. After hitting the buckle, UT gets sent to the floor and is sent ribs first into an unprotected barricade (which was unprotected thanks to UT himself). While he isn’t in the same class as Guerrero, he’s quite nasty about working over UT’s midsection, even thought he doesn’t employ a great deal of offense, although I don’t recall seeing him use a spine buster before this. UT also does one of his better sell jobs here, even using the ribs to explain why he can’t lock in the TCB all the way. When it seems like UT is about to make a comeback, Cena goes for the chain and wallops him in the ribs, and then hits the FU for two. Granted, the FU hadn’t yet been established as Cena’s big move, so seeing it disrespected here isn’t as bad as it would have been later. But still, when the move specifically targets a body part that’s already hurt, and it still doesn’t work, it’s not good for its credibility. Cena doesn’t learn for UT’s mistake though, and when he had a chance to pounce and finish off UT, he went for the corner punches, and stopped to pose, UT hits the Last Ride and it’s over. Sure, it’d have been nice to see Cena get the win here, after his last PPV appearance (three months ago) also resulted in a loss, but considering the build up and the story that they were telling, they did the right thing here. ***1/4


I suppose this is as good as can realistically be expected. Vince is a lot of things, but a great in-ring worker isn’t one of them, and Gowen can only do so much with one leg. It’s fun to watch Vince toy around with him, and Vince always has a smirk on his face the whole time, whether he’s working leg submissions, or just kicking the leg from under him. All Gowen really can do is various dropkicks and flying moves off the top, which is probably an indication of why his WWE career was as short as it was. He does get some nice revenge on Vince when he pulls him into the post and then starts to post his leg. But anything else that they try to do to give Gowen offense doesn’t go right, his diving bulldog looked terrible, and looked like it hurt Gowen more than Vince. And Vince had to basically put himself into position for Gowen to kick the chair into his face so Vince could tap his gusher. The finish makes enough sense, with Gowen wiping out on his corkscrew moonsault or whatever he was going for, but Vince should have hooked the leg just for that one little extra heelish touch.

BROCK LESNAR © vs. THE BIG SHOW vs. KURT ANGLE (WWE Heavyweight Title)

After such an enjoyable undercard, this is quite the disappointment, it’s not outright bad or anything, but it still comes up short. It’d be easy to lay blame on Show, but he’s actually one of the big positives. He was the only one who really got to look dominating at all, but yet, he was the only one to really supply anything good in the way of selling. The two Angles Slams in particular are a good example, the first one (though the table) puts him out of the way so Angle and Brock can go at it, and when he finally emerges, Angle’s second one puts him down for good. Big Show is also responsible for the only real story element of the match, Angle and Brock know they have to work together to keep him at bay, and then worry about each other. And that’s fine when Show is in the match throwing them around, or getting doubled teamed by them, but like every match of this sort, there comes a time when Show isn’t around and Angle and Brock are on their own.

For all of their amateur accomplishments, Angle and Brock’s exchanges look like they’re trying to ‘steal the show’ at an indy show by throwing out tons of moves, rather than slowing down and making their offense mean anything, or telling their own story without Show. It’s nice to see that Brock and change up the F-5 and send Kurt to the floor when he tries to block it, and that Kurt has the power to German suplex Brock so that he does a complete flip. But that’s all they’ve really got. Brock whips out his body scissors sleeper for no real reason, other than to take a rest it seemed, he hadn’t singled out any part of Angle’s body to wear down, and despite Tazz trying to put over its effects, Brock just lays there and doesn’t put any real effort into the hold. It’s also a small miracle that Kurt only goes for the Ankle Lock twice, once very early and he gets kicked off, and the second time after Brock’s missed charge, but it gets broken up by show, and just like Brock, Kurt hadn’t attempted to build to the hold at all. And for as much as Kurt and Brock throw each other around, neither put much effort into selling. As nice as it was to see Kurt get the win by pinning Brock, cleanly, and with zero help from Big Show, it comes off a bit sudden and falls a bit flat. Kurt and Brock had been throwing each other around quite a bit, without much effect, so it looks more than a bit odd to see a single Angle Slam suddenly stop Brock dead in his tracks. It’d have come off better had Brock bothered to sell his midsection when Angle was suplexing him around, or if Angle had maybe tried to level it up somehow. But considering there is probably 100 worse ways they could have finished the match, I’ll count my blessings.

Conclusion: The secret to good WWE PPVs is apparently to just get rid of all the RAW guys. There’s plenty of good stuff here and the not-so-good stuff (aside from the main event) is more or less just harmless fun, definite recommendation for Vengeance 2003.