WWF No Way Out 2001 2/25/2001

February 25, 2001
Thomas & Mack Center
Las Vegas, Nevada
Attendance: 15,223
Buy Rate: 1.31
Announcers: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler

Fun Fact: This is the last PPV Jerry Lawler would commentate on for ten months. His then-wife Stacy Carter, also known as Miss Kitty, would be fired shortly after this show. Lawler was very upset about this, and quit the company out of loyalty to his wife. This ends a streak of fifty-one consecutive PPVs that Lawler was at the desk for starting with the 1996 Survivor Series.

Sunday Night Heat

Rikishi (Solofa Fatu) defeats Matt Hardy

1) Big Show (Paul Wight) defeats Raven (Scott Levy) to win WWF Hardcore Title with a chokeslam at 4:13

24/7 Pinfalls
Billy Gunn (Monte Sopp) pins Raven at 2:26 to win Hardcore Title
Raven pins Billy Gunn at 3:17 to win Hardcore Title
Big Show pins Raven at 4:13 to win Hardcore Title

Fun Fact:
The Hardcore title was passed around like a hot potato from the Royal Rumble till this show. From January 22 until this night, the title went in this order: Raven, Al Snow, K-Kwik, Crash Holly, Raven, K-Kwik, Crash Holly, Hardcore Holly, Raven, Hardcore Holly, Raven, Al Snow, Steve Blackman, and Raven.

Fun Fact II:
In early 2001, a mysterious masked ninja in a black bodysuit began helping Raven retain the Hardcore title, attacking his opponents and acting as a getaway driver. Raven’s eventual Hardcore title feud with Crash led to a feud between the Ninja and Molly. Molly finally unmasked the ninja on the 3/11 Heat, revealing her to be Tori, who had been out of action since the Dudleys hurt her at King of the Ring. After the unmasking, the character was removed from television and Tori would eventually be released in September after a role as a trainer on Tough Enough.

A fun opener for the most defended title in the WWF. This is supposed to be just Big Show and Raven, but a boatload of people get into the mix, including Steve Blackman, Hardcore Holly, and Billy Gunn. Gunn actually wins the title halfway through the match, but Raven would win it back. Big Show then drops a chokeslam for the win. These hardcore matches are easy to do because there really isn’t a way to book the meat and potatoes of the match. You just pick some spots and then just hit each other with stuff during the rest of it. There’s a really good hardcore title match next month involving these two and another big brawler in Houston. This is a good prelude to that. Grade: 2.5

The February PPV outing is opened up with a fun little brawl. After a tumultuous month, Raven is the reigning Hardcore champion and has been rolling along thanks to the help of a mysterious friend. Big Show is his opponent here, now being busted down to the mid-card after his shocking return at the Royal Rumble. A minute or two into the match, a vendor hops in the ring and attacks Raven. The vendor is beaten down by Show and revealed to be Crash Holly. That starts the run of interference that saw a couple of title changes before Show finally puts Raven down and picks up the title. The match was stiff and energetic and got the crowd going to set the tone for what will be a memorable night. Grade: 2.5

2) Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) defeats Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and X-Pac (Sean Waltman) in a Fatal Four Way match to retain WWF Intercontinental Title when he pins X-Pac with a roll-up at 12:18

Fun Fact: Justin Credible makes his PPV appearance debut here. He is the former Aldo Montoya, the Portuguese Man-O-War. He would be brokered out to both the USWA and ECW as PG-187 in 1996. He was granted his release and went full-time to ECW as his current name, and would eventually win the ECW Title on April 22, 2000 from Tommy Dreamer. He would also be part of a heel faction called the Impact Players with Lance Storm, Jason and Francine. He was in ECW until they went belly-up in early 2001 and then resigned with the WWF as X-Pac’s backup.

A really good match involving four solid technicians and risk takers. Jericho and Benoit tore New Orleans down last month at the Rumble, and add two other guys who could bump around and you’ve got the recipe for an awesome match. Some points: X-Pac really starts drawing the ire of the fans. Not because he’s a heel, but because he’s just disliked. Now that DX is officially dead, X-Pac really has no identity. Sure he has former ECW Champion Justin Credible on his side now, but no more green tights, and no more crotch chops. So he just comes out to his music and he flops his arms around looking quite awkward. He’s around for much of the year, but he just seems out of place from his 1998 salad days. Eddie Guerrero is putting on great matches but his personal life is a mess. He gets hit with a sobering slap of reality in a few months. Jericho and Benoit are pretty much on fire, so put it together and you have a great match. One great visual is Jericho locking in the Walls to all three opponents in succession. Jericho sneaks a quick roll-up from X-Pac and leaves Vegas still Intercontinental Champion. Grade: 4

Fresh off a scintillating IC title win, Chris Jericho had raised the ire of the Chairman thanks to his treatment of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. As a result, Vince put him in a title match with four super tough opponents. The match gets off to a fast start and the story early on would be the teamwork of the Radicalz and X-Pac against the Champion. Working cohesively early on, Benoit and Guerrero looked good and kept some control. In a neat spot, Benoit reverses an X-Factor attempt and drops X-Pac into the Crossface. A few near falls would follow, but Jericho was able to desperately save his title by breaking up the pin attempts. As the match wore on, Benoit would gain a couple of close calls, but his buddy Eddie screwed him twice by breaking up the pins. Benoit was not impressed and he and Eddie finally went at it, and very stiffly at that. Benoit would even hit a nasty superplex on Eddie, putting both men down. The crowd was behind Jericho all the way through and was definitely all over X-Pac from bell to bell. Towards the end of the bout, Justin Credible heads out and takes Benoit out on the floor. Things would break down from there, with Credible eventually taken out of the equation. Jericho would eventually sneak in and grab the pin on X-Pac to keep his belt. This was a fantastic match that never slowed down and kept the crowd rocking all the way through. It is definitely a forgotten classic on a loaded show. Grade: 4.5

3) Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley defeats Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) after a William Regal (Darren Matthews) neckbreaker at 8:29

Fun Fact: The night after Royal Rumble, Test defeated William Regal on Raw to win the European Title. Soon after that Mr. McMahon put Regal in the Commissioners role, replacing the fired Mick Foley. Foley had been fired by Vince McMahon on the December 18 Raw. With Linda McMahon incapacitated, the board of directors officially gave full control of the WWF to Vince. Stephanie made the announcement that night and after Vince and Kurt Angle put a brutal beating on Foley, Vince officially fired Mick.

Considering neither of these women has any formal wrestling training, well Steph doesn’t, but Trish was getting there, this is a very entertaining match. Both women keep up with each other and keep the pace fresh, and the brawl is stiff and very real. Not that Trish and Steph had legit heat, but that their interaction didn’t look clumsy and fake. It’s two heels in the match, but Stephanie clearly has the slight edge of crowd support here. William Regal comes out and originally had Trish winning by placing her over a prone Steph as the ref is out. Then he changes his mind and puts Steph’s foot on the rope. While the ref is still groggy, Regal hits the neckbreaker and Stephanie gets the win. Afterwards, we see that Regal made the wrong decision. I was not a fan of this entire storyline, but at least we’ve gotten some nice matches out of it. This pores over into next month at Wrestlemania, when an entirely new dynamic changes the entire face of the WWF, and professional wrestling in general. Grade: 3

Mr. McMahon was definitely on one of his big time power trips right now as he had his wife sedated and locked away in a sanitarium, finally fired Mick Foley in December and then began an affair with Trish Stratus. While things were still fine between Vince and his baby girl, Steph was none too pleased with Trish’s rise to prominence. Vince wasn’t too pleased with his two women feuding and advises his new commissioner to do the right thing in the match. The match was a lot of fun and was actually well worked and built nicely. Steph took control early and hit a couple of nice moves, including a diving clothesline on the floor. Trish would eventually gain the edge and hit some good looking offense, mixing in a bulldog and DDT. After the two had some nice give and take, the true cat fight broke out and they began working crisply and stiff. Steph even hit a nice powerbomb. After a ref bump, Regal would get involved, eventually helping Steph pick up the win. Backstage after the match, Vince let him have it for not making the right decision. He then made a match for the next night on Raw: Vince & Trish vs. Regal & Steph. That would end up being very interesting, but we will elaborate in our next review. This was a surprisingly fun match as both ladies worked extra hard and delivered. Grade: 3

4) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Steve Austin (Steve Williams) in a Three Stages of Hell match

Steve Austin pins Triple H with the Stunner at 12:20
Triple H pins Steve Austin in a Street Fight with the Pedigree at 27:11
Triple H pins Steve Austin in a Steel Cage match after falling on top of a prone Austin at 39:27

Fun Fact:
This feud just continued to percolate more and more leading to this match. First on the 2/12 Raw, the Rock defeated Rikishi, which allowed Triple H to determine the stipulations for this match. After the contract signing indicating neither man could touch the other until the match, or risk being suspended for six months, they took their frustrations out on those close to the other. Austin stunned Stephanie on the 2/19 Raw, then Triple H Pedigreed Jim Ross on the 2/22 Smackdown.

The previous three PPV matches between these two at IYH Buried Alive, No Mercy 1999, and Survivor Series 2000 were solid, but something was missing to really make it click. That something was pure brutality. This feud was based on one thing: hatred. It was written that way, and this match was laid out that way. Who would be the last one standing after forty minutes of beating the shit out of each other with anything and everything around the ring? The first fall was about endurance, a straight wrestling match where each man would inflict pain on each other with sheer talent and ability. Austin would go after Hunter’s arm while Hunter would go after Austin’s knee. In the end, Austin drills the Stunner, and goes up 1-0. The second fall is where the real fun begins. The street fight is fifteen minutes of the most brutal, bloody action in quite some time and sees the usage of chairs, stairs, monitors, sledgehammers, and barbed wire bats. Whatever they chose to use on each other they would. The crowd was into every minute, as both the Rattlesnake and the Game went at each other with pure animalistic rage. Both get busted open, and after a sledge shot and Pedigree, the Game evens the match 1-1. Finally, as if the street fight wasn’t brutal enough, down lowers the steel cage. Now there’s an even bigger weapon to attack each other with. Twelve more minutes of mayhem and bloodshed. At one point both guys are near the top of the cage, and they spend about forty-five seconds just pounding each other’s bloody faces into the top of the cage. Finally, Austin picks up the barbed wire bat, Hunter the sledge. They attack, hit each other at the same time, and fall to the canvas. Well Austin falls to the canvas, and a limp bloody Game falls on Austin and gets the incidental three count. One of my favorite matches of all time and the match that I believe is the genesis of what happens the following month at Wrestlemania, but more on that when we get there. I can watch this match over and over and never get sick of it. Grade: 5

The buildup here had been well detailed. Triple H had put Austin on the shelf for the year. Austin got some revenge a year later when he nearly killed the Game with a forklift. Since then, both men had cost the other World title matches, so things were at a boiling point heading into what was expected to be a brutal battle. The crowd was amped right from the entrances and there was a definite buzz in the arena as the two studs traded blows to start. While his last couple of PPV matches have been good, this was the match that officially signaled to everyone that the real Stone Cold was now back in the house and he was ready to go balls to the wall. The first fall is a nice dichotomy to what would come, as the two men trade holds and work body parts to try and wear the other down for the more vicious falls still to come. What was nice to see was that the crowd gave the match time to build and stayed in it through the early portions as they worked the straight match fall. They buzzed throughout and were with Austin the whole way through. Austin picks up the win what had been built up as being the fall in which Hunter would have the advantage. Even though it was just the first fall, if the match had ended here it would still have been a good three star affair. The second fall started immediately and they went right out to the floor and began stiffing the crap out of each other. After Austin beats Hunter around ringside, they brawl into the crowd as the brutality continued on. Austin would dominate the fall for a while, beating Triple H senseless with a chair and then brandishing a barbed wire baseball bat. Unfortunately for him, Hunter would grab the bat and bust Austin wide open with it to regain control. Another nasty spot was when Austin back dropped Hunter from the announce table high into the air and crashing through the Spanish announce table. As the fall wore on, Hunter kept brutalizing Austin with some sick shots on top of a chair, but Austin wouldn’t give in. Triple H finally brandished his sledgehammer, but the two battled over it and Austin fought valiantly until he ate a Pedigree to end the fall. JR pointed out that Hunter had won Austin’s type of match and vice versa. At this point, the match was a classic, but there was still more to come as the cage lowered. After the match had focused on working on a body part and sheer brutality, the story of the third fall was desperation and survival. Both men were ravaged and bloodied and just tried to outlast the other inside the steel. Triple H was able to hit another Pedigree and Austin barely kicked out to a massive pop. Austin would retaliate with a Stunner, but Hunter was also able to barely kick out. Right after that spot came the double KO and Hunter’s lucky win. The match was wonderfully done and was loaded with drama and excitement. This was just a masterpiece between two of the best and I feel bad for the match that had to follow that one. The match showed that Triple H was still one of the top dogs in the WWF and proved that Steve Austin was back in a big way. Grade: 5

*** Tazz comes out to commentate with JR for the rest of the show. This show is Tazz’s PPV debut behind the microphone. ***

5) Steven Richards defeats Jerry Lawler at 5:31 after an accidental belt shot from Kat (Stacy Lawler); Due to pre-match stipulations, Kat must join Right to Censor

Fun Fact: The Kat had wanted to show off her goods again and was championing the “Right to Nudity” but the RTC was steadfast against it. The week before on Smackdown, the RTC put a beating on the King, who was obviously campaigning for Kat to get naked. The stipulation was straightforward here: King wins, Kat gets naked; Richards win, Kat joins the RTC.

Fun Fact II:
On Heat before the show, the Las Vegas Outlaw cheerleaders were celebrating the team’s win with a dance on the stage, but the RTC came out and broke it up.

I can’t totally crap on this match because anything that follows what we just watched will not be done justice. The storyline involves Kat wanting to be naked, and RTC having none of it. It was fitting that the King was fighting for Kat, since they’re married in real life. However this leads to big ramifications off screen, as both Kat and Lawler would be out of the Federation before Wrestlemania. This match wasn’t bad, and again I can’t totally rip it after the Triple H/Austin bloodfest. Grade: 2

I must say, this was some shrewd match placement. The crowd was sure to be burnt by the last match, but you knew they would be into things with Kat’s nudity on the line. Kat and Ivory were at ringside as Jerry and Steven battled for what they believed in. In a bizarre spot, Richards attempted the Ho Train, but Lawler dodged it to swing the momentum. Miscommunication by the Kat in the end cost the King the match which would force her into the RTC. The rest of the RTC would come down to celebrate and they carry the Kat off victoriously. Unfortunately, the story would abruptly end there due to some backstage drama that we will detail next month. The match was short and energetic and had a good amount of heat. Grade: 2

6) The Dudley Boys defeat Edge & Christian and Kane & Undertaker in a Tables match to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Bubba Ray (Mark Lomonica) puts Christian (Jay Reso) through a table at 12:06

Fun Fact: On the Raw before the show, Undertaker laid out Edge, Christian, Bubba Ray and D-Von. Later in the show, Edge & Christian set up Undertaker by having a stagehand tell him the Dudleys were messing up his bike. When Taker arrived, the Dudleys were there as well, as they had also been baited by E&C, and they brawled in the garage.

The Hardys take the backseat here, and are replaced by the lazy brothers in the war over the gold. The Dudleys won the belts from the Canadian Connection at the Royal Rumble, and E&C want their gold back. So as not to leave the American Bad Ass & his brother off the card, the Brothers of Consumption make it in and add, well a little. With smaller guys who spent 2000 in tag title matches with weapons, Taker & Kane do their usual offense and it hurts the match a little. Taker has yet another wardrobe change, as he wears a tight top similar to his 1999 run except with a red logo matching his new look. Its evident here that Taker is out of shape. He’s a little plumper than even his 1999 heel run when he was hurt. Kane is on fire and actually looks better than his “brother” here. The “almosts” involving putting someone through a table keeps the match going, and the crowd is really into it. I would have more enjoyed Rikishi & Haku as the fourth team here instead of a cheap run-in. I’ll grade it a little higher than I would normally due to the hot crowd and the work of the Dudleys and the Canadians. Those two teams would make history at the next PPV, whereas Kane & Taker would go in different directions, but reunite to face a common enemy later in the year. Grade: 3

The tag team wars carry on and this time Edge, Christian and the Dudleys are joined by the Brothers of Destruction, who are again reunited. Taker still wasn’t in that great of shape, but at least he is in the midcard now instead of clogging up the main events. All three teams started the match brawling on the entrance ramp and they get the crowd going from the get-go. The brawl continued on around ringside, with Kane and Undertaker controlling the action. After E&C regained control, they pulled out a cringe worthy spot where the hung Bubba in the Tree of Woe and then stepped on his crotch while standing on the ropes. The action never stopped here and the weapon shots were aplenty. I’d have to question having another weapons brawl match after we already had a pair of them earlier, but the crowd was still pretty into it and it was well done, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Taker actually busted it in this match and had his working boots on more than he had lately, so that kept the match flowing instead of slowing it down. Tazz did a nice job throughout putting E&C over as big time players that could get the job done and hang with the big dogs. As the match wore on, we got a couple of false finishes, with various guys just preventing others from winning the match. Just when Taker and Kane are about to put E&C through tables, Haku and Rikishi head out and assault them. I think this adds more momentum to the idea that Kane & Taker were initially set to face Haku & Rikishi at Wrestlemania. The Brothers battled the Islanders to the back, leaving the Dudleys and E&C alone with the tables. A few moments and one 3-D on Christian later and the Dudleys were victorious and still champions. This was a fun brawl and Kane and Taker actually added a cool little dynamic to the tag team mix. A big part of that was the environment, but I was glad to see them keep active in the match and step up the pace until Haku & Rikishi took them out. Grade: 3.5

7) The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) defeats Kurt Angle to win WWF World Title after two Rock Bottoms at 16:53

Fun Fact: Rock earned this title shot by defeating Big Show on the 2/6 Raw in a #1 contenders match.

Their first match at No Mercy in October was very good, as these two have a natural chemistry in the ring together. After Angle squeezes out one title defense after another, and Rock took care of other issues, it comes back to them with the winner taking the gold and a date with Steve Austin April 1 in Houston. What I liked about this match, besides the workrate and psychology, was the build. Rock went away from his usual catch phrases and silly jokes. He got down to business and told the Olympic hero very simply: the Rock wants the title, and he’s going to take it, it was as simple as that. He even references himself in the first person in one promo. Sure that sounds inconsequential, but it showed that Rock was taking his quest to winning the WWF Title very seriously. The match is humming along at a great place, when suddenly Big Show’s music plays and the Hardcore Champion comes down the aisle. He gets in the ring and chokeslams the referee, Angle, and Rock all in succession. Obviously Show lost to Rock in the #1 contenders match to get to this point, but it still doesn’t explain why he came out here. He never gets in the title storyline, and sticks around the mid card for most of the year. The match slows down here as a new referee comes in and both men get back into the mix. You also see a different side of Angle in this match, as he’s swearing at Rock while he’s got the Ankle Lock cranked. Tazz’s commentary isn’t bad, and I wondering if Vince knew that Lawler was talking about leaving and he was testing out someone else to replace him. As we see at the next PPV, someone does replace Lawler, but it’s who you least expect. After two Rock Bottoms, the People’s Champion is back on top, and ready to reignite the Attitude Era’s signature feud of two wrestlers. Angle’s run has been great as improbable champion in the midst of main event all-stars. Yet now its time to slide down the card a bit and work with some of the other mid-card studs. This is a fitting finale to one of the greatest shows in WWF history. Grade: 4

Right off the bat, I will have to disagree with Scott about Jerry Lawler. I am fairly certain his walking out was not something anybody saw coming. From his book, Lawler seemed very happy in the WWF and only left out of loyalty to his wife. I think they just wanted another heel announcer to do Smackdown so the King didn’t have to do double duty and to provide depth for times like this. Anyway, with that said, our Main Event was a rematch from October and would either bring Kurt Angle’s title reign full circle or he would ride a huge wave of momentum into Wrestlemania. The Rock was still mega over here as you would expect him to be and was set to get his gold back from the man that took it from him. Early on, the match had a good back and forth flow to it with each man trading off some offense. Once Angle took over, he tried going right to the Anklelock, but Rock would wriggle free and avoid the crippling hold. With Rock still not worn down enough, Angle would turn to his suplexes to try and wear the People’s Champion down. Rock battled back and was able to grab the Sharpshooter, but Angle got out of the hold and took control back. Tazz did another nice job here, putting over Angle and questioning why everybody was picking Rock to roll right over him. I am not sure I really understood Show’s interference either. I know they wanted to rebuild him into a main event force, but they could have done it the next night on Raw instead of having him get involved in the match here. Things were rolling and he derailed them a bit, but as soon as he left, business picked right back up. Heading into the finish, we got some really good false finishes and a great segment of Angle wrenching the Anklelock and screaming at Rock to tap out. The final moments had an epic feel to them as the two studs just traded blows and moves in a desperate effort to take home the World title. Angle would survive two Rock Bottoms and Rock would barely kick out of an Olympic Slam, but a third Rock Bottom would end Kurt’s title reign and send Rock to Wrestlemania. The heat when Kurt survived the second Rock Bottom was awesome. Kurt did a great job as a Champion during a time where there were a lot of big names surrounding him and the reign helped legitimize him as a major player in the WWF. Grade: 4.5

Final Analysis

Scott: Top to bottom, this may be the greatest secondary PPV in history. To this point, the measuring stick was IYH: Canadian Stampede in July 1997. That was an awesome show with a great undercard and a fabulous main event. However that show had only four matches. This show is fuller, with every match putting together similar styles and personalities. Right now the WWF is on top of the wrestling world. They have almost all of the top talent, and they’re using all of them in the right places. The main event scene has all of the familiar but trustworthy guys, as we saw here with the Triple H/Austin and Rock/Angle matches. Guys like Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit showed they were ready to ascend to the next level. They’ll also be heading to a show bigger than any they’ve ever been in to this point in their careers. ECW is done, and WCW is about to change management. That change in management is the biggest moment in wrestling history. Soon the Monday Night War will be officially over, and Vince McMahon will have done what he set out to do when he bought the WWF from his father eighteen years before. Right now, let’s bask in a show that we think you will enjoy very much. Top to bottom, I think it’s the best secondary show in the company’s history, a prelude to one of the best overall shows ever coming up. Final Grade: A+

This is just a fantastic PPV outing that comes off the heels of a hot Royal Rumble and kept the WWF rolling on the road to their biggest Wrestlemania to date. The February show is usually a bit of a holdover affair, but this show bucked that trend in a big way. We had a bunch of great matches and not one dud. Even the Steph/Trish match was really quite good. I also liked how every match on the card had build up and an interesting storyline going into it, which allowed the crowd to be emotionally invested in each bout. Everyone had their working boots on here in Vegas, and the effort shone through. The Three Stages of Hell is one of the best matches I have ever seen and the Main Event and I-C match were also stellar. Match for match, you will be hard pressed to find a better top to bottom show and this really should be considered on the short list of greatest PPV outings of all time from any company. The matches and angles were all well executed and we had big moments and a hot crowd throughout. That is a recipe for success, and is what helped WWF stand tall in the Monday Night war. Final Grade: A+

MVP: Steve Austin & Triple H
Runner Up: Rock & Kurt Angle
Non MVP: Rikishi
Runner Up: The Kat

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