WWF Judgment Day 2001 5/20/2001

May 20, 2001
Arco Arena
Sacramento, California
Attendance: 13,623
Buy Rate: .74
Announcers: Jim Ross and Paul Heyman

Sunday Night Heat

Raven defeats Val Venis
The Holly Cousins defeat Kaientai

1) William Regal (Darren Matthews) defeats Rikishi (Solofa Fatu) with a neckbreaker at 3:57

Fun Fact: After he and Haku lost a handicap match to the Rock on the 3/8 Smackdown, Rikishi was sent to the DL with a banged up shoulder. He returned on the May 3 Smackdown to battle Undertaker to a no contest when Taker bashed him repeatedly with a chair. On the May 7 Raw, Rikishi officially turned face with the help of special guest Mick Foley. Mick called Rikishi out and showed him that he had been made a pawn by Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. Commissioner Regal tried to stop the proceedings but he caught a Rikishi superkick to complete the turn and set up the match here. Rikishi would proceed to dance for the fans for the first time in over eight months.

So with the last four months of 2000 pretty much forgotten, Rikishi returns to PPV as a face to tackle the evil WWF Commissioner. The match itself is decent enough, but nothing memorable. Regal has been a solid performer and character in his commissioner role, and is one of the more stable aspects of the storyline roller-coaster throughout 2001. Grade: 2

Just eight months after they attempted to make Rikishi a top flight heel in a major program, he pops back up as a mid card face, which is probably the role he should have been in all along. It was nice that they tried to elevate him, but he really didn’t have the tools to carry that kind of angle with Steve Austin at the end of 2000. Throughout the match, Rikishi would tease the stinkface but Regal kept avoiding it. The crowd was digging Rikishi right off the bat again, so that may be another sign that his heel turn was ill-fated from the start. Regal would eventually gain control with his basic stiff strikes but Rikishi would turn the tables and finally get the stinkface. Regal’s facials as he scampered around the ring afterwards were some great stuff. Regal would then regroup and focus on Rikishi’s rehabbed shoulder and then put him away with his arm wringer neckbreaker. The match was quick and energetic, but nothing special. Regal did bleed hardway which was quite nasty in the closing moments of the bout. Grade: 1.5

*** Backstage, Edge & Christian are talking about the tag team turmoil match and Christian calls Chris Jericho a “packet of schmuck sauce” which was really funny for some reason. Kurt Angle interrupts them looking for ladder match advice before heading to the ring for his match. ***

2) Kurt Angle defeats Chris Benoit in a Best Two out of Three Falls match to regain his gold medals

Chris Benoit wins the pinfalls only fall with the Angle Slam at 1:07
Kurt Angle wins the submissions only fall with the Anklelock at 12:10
Kurt Angle wins the ladder fall to regain his Olympic medals at 23:54

Fun Fact:
To further this feud, Benoit had taken Angle’s gold medals after tossing him out of the ring on an episode of Raw. Benoit would give Angle the medals back but only if he would agree to meet him in the ring one more time at Judgment Day. Angle said yes and Benoit said he would keep the medals in a warm safe place. He then proceeded to put the medals down his pants. In one funny spot, Angle was able to knock Benoit out and retrieve his medals by sticking his hand down Benoit’s pants. He then proceeded to kiss them, but Benoit would grab him in the Crossface and take the medals back right after the rescue attempt.

The rivalry of early-2001 ends here as Kurt Angle wins back his medals in a grueling three fall match. The match at Wrestlemania was spectacularly wrestled, but had a poor ending. Their rematch at Backlash was meant to cater to both superstars’ strengths, but it lacked a flow. The rubber match had a purpose: Kurt wanted his stolen medals back, particularly since they’ve been hiding in the Wolverine’s crotch for the past couple of weeks. The opening pinfall was quicker than I thought, but it sets up Kurt feverishly battling for the next two falls. My opinion is that they were preparing Kurt for his face push later in the year by booking this match so that he’s chasing his medals, much the way a babyface would be battling for something that he wins in the end. Sure, Edge & Christian come out to help Kurt win and keep him heel, but it’s just a theory. The shots with the ladder were nice, including Benoit getting suplexed into the ladder. Kurt wins his medals back, and celebrates the next night on Raw, but that ceremony leads to his match at King of the Ring. I would put this match second behind Wrestlemania, but ahead of Backlash. Grade: 3.5

After splitting their first two matches, Angle and Benoit duel in their rubber match. Benoit quickly wins the first fall as he catches Angle with his own move a minute in. Benoit would not sit back and rest either as he went right for the jugular as he tried to lock in the crossface right as the second fall started. Benoit would continue trying for the crossface, but Angle slowed him up with a nasty spot when he rammed him crotch first into the ring post. Paul Heyman did another great job this month as he puts over the equality of both men in the ring. Angle would begin working the knee and was eventually able to tie up the match when he hooks the Anklelock. The third fall would see a great brawl but the crowd did die out a bit as the match wore on. They would be awakened, however, by a nasty snap suplex on the ladder. Angle’s buddies, Edge & Christian, would finally head down and run interference, which allowed Angle to sneak up the ladder and regain his medals. The match was pretty fun all around, but was definitely too long. After these two men had fought so much in a straight wrestling match and a submission match the last two months, we really didn’t need a rehash of those matches in the first two falls tonight. This match could have been better as tighter fifteen minute ladder match as the middle fall kind of killed the crowd. It was still quite good as is, but was kind of overkill in the long run. Angle has his medals back, but we have not seen the end of Benoit tonight. Grade: 3.5

*** Backstage, Undertaker finds William Regal and forces him into making the main event a no holds barred match. We then cut to WWF New York where Light Heavyweight champion Jerry Lynn cuts a bizarrely bitter promo about being left off the PPV. ***

3) Rhyno (Terry Gerin) defeats Test (Andrew Martin) and Big Show (Paul Wight) to retain WWF Hardcore Title when he pins Big Show with the Gore at 9:15

Scott: One of the many superstars that came from the demise of the other two promotions, Rhyno was booked into the perfect scenario. He might as well be put into the division that suits his character best: weapons and pain. Big Show loses again, and he’s really paying dues for falling out of shape. Test was just there to take some extra bumps. Even though the Hardcore Title was starting to lose its luster, it was still providing entertaining matches on the card. This was another nice win for Rhyno. Grade: 2.5

For the second month in a row, the man-beast is involved in a PPV hardcore title bout. While Rhyno is the champion, the real bad blood is between Test and Big Show. Test had helped Shane McMahon defeat Show at Backlash and they had been battling since. Test was getting a decent push here and he is put over quite a bit on commentary. The three men would brawl through the crowd and backstage, but the whole contest was standard hardcore fare. Back in the ring, Show hit a super stiff chokeslam on Rhyno which would lead to some good near falls involving everyone. The crowd was a bit flat for this one but Rhyno looked like a beast once again as he picks up another win. His energy out there is fantastic as he never stops moving and had really good offense. Grade: 2

4) Chyna (Joanie Laurer) defeats Lita (Amy Dumas) to retain WWF Women’s Title with a powerbomb at 6:29

Fun Fact: Chyna said that after winning the title at Wrestlemania, she felt the competition wasn’t up to par with her abilities. Well the red-haired siren of Extreme came out to politely ask for a Women’s Title match. Chyna accepted, and they became friends, well sort of. It seemed Chyna wanted to get close to her for a probable heel turn but that never happened. The 5/14 Raw saw Chyna and Lita face Ivory & Molly in a tag match. Lita started the match and looked to tag Chyna in, but she refused and told Lita to go back out there herself. After taking a bit of a beating Lita got the pin and won the match. Afterwards Chyna said she did that because she wanted to see Lita earn her title shot for the PPV. Finally, before the match, Eddie Guerrero paid a visit to Lita and asked if she wanted advice on beating his former lover. Lita said she was all set and that segment would bring an end to the Eddie/Lita angle as Eddie was sent to rehab right after.

Fun Fact II:
This is Chyna’s final PPV match. Contract negotiations went on through the summer, but just like Sable in 1999, once she got into Playboy her ego got out of control and she wanted Triple H and Steve Austin-type salaries. It also didn’t help that she was a little pissed off at Triple H for dumping her and going out with Stephanie in real life. She was taken off camera soon after this match, but wasn’t released from her deal until November 30. Her final record is 7-8, and her resume included a women’s title and three Intercontinental Titles. She would soon vacate the title and it wouldn’t be seen again until Survivor Series. Since leaving, Chyna’s life and career spiraled out of control. After failing Hollywood, she would eventually begin dating Sean Waltman, also known as X-Pac. The two would make an infamous sex tape but Chyna’s addiction problem soon became well known throughout the entertainment industry. The world would eventually watch her self destruct on VH-1’s Surreal Life and she would eventually fade away from the spotlight.

I wasn’t sure if this feud was supposed to go further than it did, but it was extremely sloppy, mostly because at one point one of Chyna’s magnificent pontoons started slipping out of her top, and the horny Sacramento men made sure to point it out to everyone. Chyna would start contract negotiations, and as we’ll see by the end of the year, you know how it went. Grade: .5

Well, the end of an era is upon us as another one of the Attitude era stalwarts moves on and ends up killing off the women’s championship as well. Chyna has been a mainstay on all programming for the last four years but her ego and personal life turmoil would drive her from the promotion. She was still fairly over here but not even close to Lita, who gets a huge pop for her entrance. JR made a clear point to say that Chyna was only going to be wrestling women from now on, which would have added a nice focus to the division if she was booked as a monster heel wrecking machine champion, but it wasn’t meant to be. Lita put up a good fight including a neat cross armbreaker spot where she almost got the tap out. Eddie Guerrero would also make a brief appearance in his final PPV for a year as he watches from the aisle but doesn’t get involved. The match ended up being surprisingly good thanks to the storyline and crowd and Chyna picks up a big win in her final match. Grade: 2

***Backstage, Kurt Angle lets everyone know that he will be holding an Olympic ceremony on Raw. ***

5) Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeats Triple H (Paul Levesque) in a chain match to win WWF Intercontinental Title after an accidental Steve Austin (Steve Williams) chairshot at 12:29

Fun Fact: The Intercontinental title was a bit of a hot potato in April. Triple H lost the belt to Jeff Hardy in a memorably shocking moment on the April 12 Smackdown, just one week after Triple H had beaten Chris Jericho for the belt. Hunter would regain his belt on the April 16 Raw and hold it until this show.

Fun Fact II:
Kane’s arm was injured heading into this match thanks to an attack by the Two Man Power Trip.

A pretty brutal match that was much more physical than I remember. When Kane isn’t being slowed down by his out-of-shape brother, he puts on a great match and gets the crowd real excited. Triple H as usual is working with serious gas, and carries the Big Red Machine to a solid match. The chain stipulation really doesn’t hurt the match any, as the more weapons, the less actual wrestling Kane has to do. One good spot has Triple H with a chair in his hand outside, but Kane pulls the chain and Triple H’s head goes into the chair and the steel post, busting him open. Stone Cold comes out to help, but instead Steve looks dumb as he tries to hit Kane with a chair, but over swings, passes Kane’s head and cracks the Game in the noggin. Kane gets the pin and wins his first Intercontinental Title. This one is much better than their match two years earlier at Wrestlemania XV. This was the first inklings of the supposed Triple H face turn, but as we’ll mention in our next review that wouldn’t happen for eight months. Grade: 2.5

After some heated buildup focused around Triple H and Austin’s sick joke played on Undertaker’s wife and the destruction of Kane’s arm, the crowd was ready to see the Big Red Machine destroy the Game. They were into Kane big time here, but Hunter would take early control and just slowly wear down Kane’s banged up limb. The chain/chair spot that Scott mentioned was indeed nasty and definitely the spot of the match. The whole match was actually pretty brutal and they used the chain well as they just wore each other out with it. Most of the match was a good back and forth battle and it was capped off with a hot ending as Steve Austin would inadvertently cost Hunter the belt. I liked this match way more this time around and enjoyed the psychology of the arm work as well as the hatred brought forth by both men and the use of the chain. It was also kept at just the right length so it never felt as if it were dragging. Good stuff all around and Kane officially becomes another Triple Crown title holder with his win. Grade: 3

6) Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) win a tag team turmoil match to become #1 contenders; Also in the match were the Acolytes, Perry Saturn (Pete Satullo) & Dean Malenko, the Dudley Boys, X-Pac (Sean Waltman) & Justin Credible (Peter Polaco), the Hardy Boys, and Edge (Adam Copeland) & Christian (Jay Reso)

The Acolytes defeat Saturn & Malenko when Faarooq (Ron Simmons) pins Saturn after a spinebuster at 1:32
The Acolytes defeat the Dudley Boys when Bradshaw (John Layfield) pins Buh Buh Ray (Mark Lomonica) with the Clothesline from Hell at 6:28
X-Factor defeats the Acolytes when X-Pac pins Bradshaw after an Albert (Matt Bloom) trip-up at 10:13
X-Factor defeats the Hardy Boys when X-Pac pins Matt Hardy with a superkick at 13:24
Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho defeat X-Factor when Credible submitted to Benoit’s Crippler Crossface & X-Pac submits to Jericho’s Walls of Jericho at 18:40
Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho defeat Edge & Christian when Benoit forces Christian to submit to the Crippler Crossface at 25:48

Fun Fact:
Chris Jericho had engaged in a mini feud with Edge & Christian and they brutalized him heading into the show, so he promised to bring a mystery partner to the turmoil match to beat his Canadian nemeses.

A fun match to create a new #1 contender for the Power Trip’s Tag Team Titles. This begins the end of Jericho’s sluggish two-month mess with William Regal and now some more important goals to achieve besides putting ugly British women into submission moves. Benoit seamlessly moves from the Kurt Angle feud to help his fellow Canadian take out two teams to gain at a title shot at the titles. Two things about this match surprise me. Once again X-Pac’s crew gets a couple of cheap wins over very popular teams, probably to gain heat for the Canadian Chrises entrance into the match. The other surprise is how the Dudleys didn’t last in this match either. I guess they wanted a couple of singles guys to get together so they can feud together and separately with the other main eventers. Effectively, Jericho & Benoit replace Undertaker & Kane as opponents for Triple H and Austin. As we see the next night things get completely thrown into chaos. For now, the Lionheart & the Wolverine earn their shot in a very entertaining match. Grade: 3

Justin: During this era, when in need of new top contenders for the tag belts, the WWF often looked to the Turmoil match. And it was hard to blame them as the matches were usually fun and got a lot of guys on to a PPV and usually kept the crowd going. Early on in this one, the APA looked dominant as they ran through Saturn and Malenko. Their fight with the Dudleys was more balanced, but the Hollys would run interference and take out their arch rivals. The Holly/Dudley war had been brewing and was focused around the burgeoning relationship between Spike and Molly. The Dudleys were still way over here but they hit the locker room fairly early in the match. X-Factor would then hit the ring and end up getting a pretty good push as well. They even picked up a surprising win over the Hardys, but I think there was a clear reason for that. They wanted a heel team to steamroll a bit to ensure that Jericho & Benoit were super over at the end and weren’t splitting face pops with the Hardys or Dudleys. Heyman would put over how Benoit & Jericho were so desperate to take the tag belts that they would join forces after brutally feuding for most of the last year. X-Factor looked good here, but the Chrises really should have came in and rolled over them in thirty seconds. The long fall kind of wore out the crowd as they were ready to pop for it but it just dragged on too long. The same would go for the last fall. I know you don’t want to bury E&C but Jericho & Benoit really should have smoked both teams and looked like world beaters heading to Raw. Those last two falls lasting twelve minutes totally sucked the crowd’s energy, but they still give the Chrises a warm reaction to the win. The match was pretty good, but just went too long in the end despite the cool surprise of Chris Benoit returning to win the match. Grade: 2.5

7) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in a no-holds barred match to retain WWF World Title after a Triple H sledgehammer shot at 23:07

Fun Fact: On the 4/30 Raw, Undertaker was told that his family was in a serious car accident but it was all a hoax, perpetrated by the WWF Champion, whose name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Well three days later on Smackdown, Taker found Austin and battled him in the back, throwing him through a glass window. That blow severely opened Austin’s left eye. So when he and Triple H were in the back of the ambulance, Taker, perhaps in homage to what he did to Stephanie in the limo at the end of Backlash 1999, makes his presence felt. He chases everyone off, wheels the stretcher out and soupbones Austin right in his damaged left eye. Austin spent the following week’s TV shows crazed with a big bandage over his left eye.

For the fourth time in the past five years, the Rattlesnake and the Deadman meet on PPV with the WWF Title on the line. Once again the roles are different than the others. In 1997 Taker was the face champ and Austin the tweener challenger. In 1998 Austin was the overwhelming face champ and Taker the face-leaning-to tweener challenger. In 1999 Austin was still the over face, but Taker was the hated evil heel. Now it’s Austin that’s the psychotic heel and Taker the badass good guy. Their matches are usually pretty acceptable and this one’s no different. Since it’s “no holds barred”, both men can lean on weapons to cover any shortcomings. Taker didn’t look as lazy in this match as he’s had in others since coming back exactly one year before. Mr. McMahon comes out to help with commentary but doesn’t really bring anything to the table. Triple H, who lost his IC Title earlier in the night due to Austin’s mishap, doesn’t blow it and hits the sledge shot to help his partner retain his title. So it’s clear that Triple H was being groomed for the big face turn as he’s doing the right thing while Austin messes things up but keeps his title. We’ll see the next night on Raw when they defend their tag titles against Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit. Two major things happen in that match, one is planned, and the other is clearly not. More on that in our next review, but for now an average title match where Triple H held his end of the Power Trip’s bargain, when earlier in the night, Steve Austin did not. Grade: 2

Our PPV main event here is our yearly matchup between Austin and Undertaker. While he was still fairly over, Taker’s ring work was quite spotty and it was around this time that rumors started to swirl of his wielding his backstage clout a bit too much. Vince McMahon joined JR and Heyman in the booth, but it was Paul that carried this one. He was tremendous on the mike and just did a great job putting over the desperation of Austin and how much the title meant to him in this feud. He also spoke the truth by telling JR the Austin turn shouldn’t have been a surprise because he always said you couldn’t trust anybody. They would battle through the crowd early on but Austin would gain control and slow it down by working the knee. Taker would battle back and toss Austin through the table with a chokeslam in a cool spot. Despite a lot people claiming he was a weak heel, Austin did draw really good heat here and the crowd was solidly behind Taker throughout it despite Austin working all his usual face spots. While the fight was decent, the main event style brawl was starting to feel a bit played out by this point and this almost seemed a bit too paint-by-numbers for me to really get into. The finish picked up a quite a bit as Taker kicks out of a Stunner, which would eventually draw Triple H out. We then got a rapid fire sequence of chairshots, chokeslams and some Vince interference to break up a pin and cause a great near fall. Austin would accidentally crush Vince with a nasty chair shot as he screws up for the second time tonight. Hunter would save his ass by drilling Taker with the hammer and giving his buddy the win. Kane would show up post match but it was too little too late as Austin escaped with the belt. The crazy finish and the crowd carried this match but there wasn’t much else there as Taker’s time at the top was clearly over for now. Taker is kept strong at the end, but I don’t think it was really necessary at this point. Grade: 2.5

Final Analysis:

Scott: This is a very mediocre show with a lot of average matches. The opener was nothing more than a comedy bit for Rikishi and another win for Regal. Kurt Angle wins his gold medals back in a great three falls match with Chris Benoit, and now they will split and move on to other goals. Their bout was definitely the match of the night. The Hardcore match was entertaining as Rhyno continues to do what he does best, which is beat the hell out of people with weapons and goring opponents. The women’s match was a mess as Chyna’s run is coming to an end, but Lita was way over and gets a pass for it. Triple H carried Kane to a decent match and was prepped for his big turn by having his partner try to help him, but screw it up and Kane’s your new IC champ. The Tag Team Turmoil match had a couple of surprises with the Dudleys eliminated early and X-Factor picking up two wins, but in the end two studs emerge from the mass of humanity to earn a tag title shot. The main event is typical for Austin and Taker, but the next night any plans for Austin and Triple H go right out the window and we go in a different direction. I don’t know if what happened had any long term effects since we don’t know what Triple H would have done if he was around, but I’m sure it caused some changes to the plan. We get some more debuts over the next month, and our next outing will have a decidedly different look. Final Grade: C

Justin: We always talk about bridge PPVs that cover that gap between eras and this is another one. While Wrestlemania was the peak of the Attitude era, this show was the bridge from that era to what would become the lost nostalgia era of the next few years. We are starting to see some of the Attitude mainstays disappear or fade to the background as a ton of new talent would be infused into the promotion over the coming weeks. This show itself was a decent watch but was very middling. It almost felt like too much of a carryover from Backlash and to me the Benoit/Angle match was the prime example of that as it just seemed to be one match too many. The Taker experiment was just about over as his run at the top just felt stale and if anything he was passed by his brother Kane who upped his effort and was rewarded by the bookers and the crowd. The highlight to me was the tremendous commentary by Paul Heyman as he was king at putting over wrestlers and angles at this point. The next night on Raw would actually end up being much more entertaining and memorable than the outing here, which was quite flat and status quo in the long run and breaks the stretch of top notch PPV outings. Grade: C-

MVP: Paul Heyman, Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle
Runner Up: Triple H & Kane
Non MVP: Chyna
Runner Up: Undertaker

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