WWF Backlash 2002 4/21/2002

April 21, 2002
Kemper Arena
Kansas City, Missouri
Attendance: 12,489
Buy Rate: .9
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler

Fun Fact I: With such a gigantic roster in the wake of the purchase of WCW the year before, the company decided to split the roster in half and have two separate entities on the two major shows. The goal was to create competition within the WWF since they had eviscerated all of the outside competition. They intended on make the brands different enough that they would create brand loyalties amongst fans. Raw would have its own roster run by Ric Flair, and Smackdown would have its own roster run by Mr. McMahon. The storyline explanation was that the board of directors determined that Flair and McMahon could not co-exist in running the promotion together, so they’re going to receive their own shows to run as they wished. The first ten draft picks for each show (twenty total) took place on the 3/25 Raw from State College, PA. The remaining picks were posted on WWE.com after the show. The picks went as follows:

1) Smackdown: The Rock
2) Raw: Undertaker
3) Smackdown: Kurt Angle
4) Raw: NWO (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and X-Pac)
5) Smackdown: Chris Benoit (Benoit was still recovering from neck surgery)
6) Raw: Kane
7) Smackdown: Hulk Hogan
8) Raw: Rob Van Dam (Intercontinental Champion)
9) Smackdown: Billy and Chuck (Tag Team Champions)
10) Raw: Booker T
11) Smackdown: Edge
12) Raw: Big Show
13) Smackdown: Rikishi
14) Raw: Bubba Ray Dudley
15) Smackdown: D-Von Dudley
16) Raw: Brock Lesnar
17) Smackdown: Mark Henry
18) Raw: William Regal
19) Smackdown: Maven (Hardcore Champion)
20) Raw: Lita
21) Smackdown: Billy Kidman (Cruiserweight Champion)
22) Raw: Bradshaw
23) Smackdown: Tajiri
24) Raw: Steven Richards
25) Smackdown: Chris Jericho
26) Raw: Matt Hardy
27) Smackdown: Ivory
28) Raw: Raven
29) Smackdown: Albert
30) Raw: Jeff Hardy
31) Smackdown: Hurricane
32) Raw: Mr. Perfect
33) Smackdown: Al Snow
34) Raw: Spike Dudley
35) Smackdown: Lance Storm
36) Raw: D-Lo Brown
37) Smackdown: Diamond Dallas Page
38) Raw: Shawn Stasiak
39) Smackdown: Torrie Wilson
40) Raw: Terri
41) Smackdown: Scotty 2 Hotty
42) Raw: Jacqueline
43) Smackdown: Stacy Kiebler
44) Raw: Goldust
45) Smackdown: Christian
46) Raw: Trish Stratus
47) Smackdown: Test
48) Raw: Justin Credible
49) Smackdown: Faarooq
50) Raw: Big Boss Man
51) Smackdown: Tazz
52) Raw: Tommy Dreamer
53) Smackdown: Hardcore Holly
54) Raw: Crash Holly
55) Smackdown: Val Venis
56) Raw: Molly Holly
57) Smackdown: Perry Saturn

The draft went into effect on the 4/1 week of programming. For now the secondary titles would be exclusive to the shows that their champions were drafted to, except the Undisputed Champion and the Women’s Champion. Triple H and Jazz were not drafted, as their titles can be defended against challengers from both shows.

Fun Fact II:
In addition to the active wrestlers, the announcers were also separated as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler manned the flagship, Raw and Michael Cole and Tazz were left to call the action on Smackdown. For this show, however, the full duties went to Ross and Lawler. This was fine for now as the split had only been going on two weeks, but a change was definitely need going forward. They would tweak it for our next show and the refine it as the summer dawned.

Fun Fact III:
In the weeks after the draft and before Backlash, Raw signed Eddie Guerrero and Steve Austin and Smackdown signed Chavo Guerrero, Hugh Morrus and the Godfather.

Sunday Night Heat

Big Show (Paul Wight) defeats Justin Credible (Peter Polaco) and Steven Richards (Michael Manna) in a handicap match

Fun Fact:
This is the WWF’s first PPV in Kansas City since Owen Hart’s death at Over the Edge 1999.

Pay Per View

1) Tajiri defeats Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner) to win WWF Cruiserweight Title after misting Kidman in the eyes at 9:08

Fun Fact:
Kidman defeated Tajiri on the 4/2 Smackdown to win the Cruiserweight Title. Tajiri had defeated Kidman for the title back on October 22.

Fun Fact II:
Tajiri started dating Torrie Wilson (in storyline) but then slowly turned heel by having her dress in a geisha costume and not talk to any other men. Of course anytime you take a hot diva and not show her off, you’ll get boos.

The Japanese Buzzsaw has turned into an old Japanese chauvinist in recent weeks, and since making Torrie Wilson wear a Kimono and turn into a Geisha girl, he’s really drawn the ire of the fans and the Cruiserweight Champion. Kidman, Wilson’s real-life husband, fights for the girl and attempts to protect his Cruiserweight Title. He and Tajiri have bounced the title around since October, and now another title change. This match was one stiff kick after another from the Buzzsaw. In fact Tajiri pretty much dominates the action, and after Kidman missed his Shooting Star Press and Tajiri smacked another hard kick I thought the match was over. Kidman kicked out, but eventually Tajiri sprays the red mist, and he regains the title Kidman took from him earlier in the month. This was a great opener with some slick moves and an “evil” ending. Grade: 3

Justin: The first effect of the brand extension shows up in our opener as Smackdown became the home of the Cruiserweight Champion and division as a whole. They would start to push the belt more than in the past and really started to accentuate the high flying style of their current crop of cruisers. After wrestling multiple times before this show, these two stalwarts had gained a good chemistry that allowed them to work a stiff match. Tajiri would just brutalize Kidman, including a nasty hot shot on the barricade and a bevy of sick kicks. The crowd was definitely digging the pace and the ruggedness of the match and Tajiri stole the show with his nasty kick while Kidman was hooked in tree of woe. While the tarantula got a nice pop, Kidman was clearly the favorite and he showed great fire in his comebacks. After a great near fall on the Buzzsaw kick it seemed like Kidman just may retain the belt through his resiliency. Tajiri had one more trick up his sleeve, though, and he busted out the mist to steal the win and the belt. The match was really humming but needed a hotter finish to really be a classic. Grade: 2.5

*** Bradshaw and Faarooq meet up backstage for a quick reunion even though they had only been apart for two weeks. ***

2) Scott Hall defeats Bradshaw (John Layfield) with a roll-up at 5:43

Fun Fact: On the 3/21 Smackdown, Kevin Nash battled the Rock. After Scott Hall interfered and caused a DQ, Hulk Hogan came out to make the save for his new friend. As Hogan was fighting off the Outsiders, X-Pac made his return from the sidelines to take Hogan out with a chair. He then tore Hogan’s shirt off and spray painted “NWO” on his back, officially joining his old buddies and taking Hogan’s place in the group.

Fun Fact II:
After the draft there were three faces that were positioned to carry Raw: Steve Austin, Kane and Bradshaw. Coming off the popular APA run, they felt it was time to strike with Bradshaw and thought that aligning him with fellow his fellow Texan Austin would get him to that next level. The impetus for this match was that the NWO took over the old APA headquarters on the 4/1 Raw. As they were playing cards, Bradshaw came in and busted up the game but the NWO left him lying. Bradshaw came to Kane’s assistance against the NWO later in the show, officially creating their new alliance.

Fun Fact III:
Those plans, however, took a quick hit as Kane tore his bicep and was going to be forced out of action for a while. On the 4/8 Raw, X-Pac battled Kane in a falls count anywhere match. The NWO quickly got involved and Kane took a bevy of chair, pipe and 2×4 shots, leaving him out cold. X-Pac took the opportunity to pull off Kane’s mask and take off with it. Later that night, Flair officially suspended Nash without pay as punishment for their actions.

Fun Fact IV:
This show also marks the final PPV match for Scott Hall. Hall unexpectedly returned to the WWF in February after being away for nearly six years but this stay would be short lived as he would be fired shortly after this show. Despite actually being a good soldier backstage, Hall was one of the main culprits of what has been deemed the “Plane Ride from Hell”. The infamous ride occurred after the 2002 Insurrexion PPV in England. During the flight, Hall, Ric Flair and Dustin Rhodes allegedly sexually harassed female flight attendants. According to one of the attendants, Flair was dressed only in one of his robes and flashed his little Nature Boy while spinning it around. The flight also saw a shoot fight break out between Brock Lesnar and Mr. Perfect arguing over their amateur skills, a drunken X-Pac shaving the hair of WWE road agent Michael Hayes, Dustin singing to his ex-wife Terri and Scott Hall placing shaving cream on people’s faces. After the flight arrived home, both Hall and Perfect were released from WWE. In this case it seemed as if Hall’s past transgressions plus an ongoing nasty custody war with his wife were just as much of a reason as the flight itself. Hall would end up bouncing around a few Indies and ended up in TNA in 2003. He would be on and off with them over the coming years but for the most part he has faded from the mainstream wrestling scene outside of an appearance here and there. Hall’s final all time PPV record is 15-13.

After a really great opener with quick action and well placed strikes, we get a big man match with slow kicks and punches. Scott Hall was certainly no Razor Ramon anymore, but he was good for a few good minutes of punching and cheating. The APA was a casualty of the Brand Extension, as Bradshaw went to Raw and Faarooq went to Smackdown. Faarooq comes out to even the odds against Hall and fellow NWO buddy X-Pac. The match itself wasn’t great, but it didn’t matter. Hall would screw himself backstage and eventually be out of a job. I understand Vince probably wanted to re-juice the faction since he drafted them to Raw, but really Hall was on borrowed time as he would never shake his demons. I can’t grade this very well just due to the fact that after a red-hot opener, this was slow and plodding. Grade: 1.5

After a brief two week separation, Faarooq comes out to back up his buddy as he takes on Hall, who had his pal X-Pac backing him up. The APA reunion actually got a nice little pop and X-Pac had some good heat on him after the Kane attack prior to this show. This match was just a basic hard hitting slugfest that actually saw Bradshaw in control for most of it. X-Pac would make the save after Bradshaw hits the CFH, but Faarooq would quickly take Pac out of the picture. Hall would take advantage of the distraction, drill Bradshaw with a low blow and roll him up to win his final WWF PPV match. I am a sucker for big man slugfests so I enjoyed this brawl but it really was nothing to write home about. Scott Hall would hang around for a few more weeks but this is the final time we will review one of his matches. Fare thee well, Bad Guy. Grade: 2

*** Vince McMahon comes into Ric Flair’s office to say he’s sneaky for being the guest referee in the Austin/Taker match. Vince tells Flair that he likes his new style and tells Flair that he is learning what it is like to be an owner in that you can’t please everyone. Flair tells Vince that he will never be like him but all of this was foreshadowing Flair’s future over the coming weeks. Also of note is Arn Anderson as Flair’s assistant. ***

3) Jazz (Carlene Begnaud) defeats Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) to retain WWF Women’s Title when Trish submits to the STF at 4:29

Fun Fact: Trish beat Molly Holly on the 4/15 Raw to earn this shot. Molly had recently gone under a complete character change as she ditched the Mighty Molly gear, stopped dying her hair blonde and cut it short. She stayed heel and began flaunting her purity and virginity while also rallying against the sexually charged Divas. Before this match, Molly comes out and says that the Women’s Champion shouldn’t cheat or flaunt her body but should rather be pure like herself. Trish would come out to take offense, but Molly would nail her with the mic and shove her into the steps as Jazz made her way out.

Thanks to Molly, my favorite diva during this stretch, Jazz gets a head start in this match and eventually gets Trish to submit to the STF. Stratus was clearly the most popular diva on the roster, even though the heel Divas like Jazz and Molly were probably the better wrestlers at this point. This match isn’t much, as Jazz beats the hell out of Trish after Molly threw her into the steel stairs before the match. Jazz is an imposing figure and a good heel champ to stabilize the women’s division. Trish tries her best, but it’s not enough. Grade: 2

Justin: After starting the match behind the eight ball, Trish never recovers enough to have a shot at winning back her belt. Jazz just brutalizes her the way through, taking advantage of Molly’s attack. Trish shows some nice fire in her comebacks, but her attempts would all fall short. Jazz just punishes Trish’s back and then puts her away with the STF. Trish looked strong in defeat and Jazz looked like a beast in victory. The crowd was up and down but the story and action was solid. Grade: 1.5

4) Brock Lesnar defeats Jeff Hardy when referee Teddy Long stops the match after three Lesnar powerbombs at 5:32

Fun Fact: Our big debut is a college legend. Lesnar attended Webster High School in Webster, South Dakota where he wrestled to a 33-1-1 record in his senior year. Lesnar later attended the University of Minnesota on a wrestling scholarship for his final two years of college. There he roomed with future professional wrestler Shelton Benjamin. Lesnar won the 2000 NCAA championship as a heavyweight after a second place finish in 1999. Prior to attending Minnesota, Lesnar also wrestled at Bismarck State College in North Dakota. Lesnar finished his amateur career as a two-time NJCAA All-American, 1998 NJCAA Heavyweight Champion, two-time NCAA All-American, two-time Big Ten Conference Champion, and the 2000 NCAA heavyweight champion with a record of 106-5 overall in four years of college. In 2000, Lesnar signed up with the WWF and was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling There, he teamed with his former roommate Benjamin as the “The Minnesota Stretching Crew”. Lesnar and Benjamin won the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship three times. He wrestled in dark matches in 2001 and 2002 before being called up to the main roster the night after Wrestlemania. Lesnar debuted on WWF television on the March 18 Raw. He ran through the crowd and attacked Al Snow, Maven, and Spike Dudley during a match. He was accompanied by Paul Heyman, who was seen giving instructions to Lesnar. Heyman was revealed to be Lesnar’s agent and he would begin calling Lesnar “The Next Big Thing”.

Fun Fact II:
Paul Heyman started to torture Lita by going into her personal belongings and taking her now famous thongs. Lesnar was originally set to face Matt Hardy at Backlash as Matt wanted to avenge his girlfriend. But on the 4/15 Raw, after Jeff and Matt defeated Mr. Perfect & Big Boss Man, Paul Heyman came out with Lita’s luggage full of thongs. He started picking them apart and smelling them. Matt and Lita came up the ramp, and then Brock came out and hit Matt with an F-5 on the stage, effectively taking him out of the Backlash bout. Jeff would take his brother’s place in the match.

Fun Fact III:
Another quick note here is that Lita was constantly holding her neck at ringside throughout this match. She had recently hurt it on April 6 while filming an episode of Dark Angel. She was attempting a huracarrana but a stunt double dropped her mid move and she crashed down on her head. On April 30, Lita would undergo spinal fusion surgery and would be out of the ring for over a year.

Well here he is: The Next Big Thing. Brock Lesnar officially wrestles his first match and absolutely kills Jeff Hardy here. He was supposed to fight Jeff’s brother Matt, but as you see above, Lesnar took Matt out with an F-5 atop the ramp before the show. There’s really not much to say here, as Brock beats Jeff senseless here, including a pair of nasty trifectas: three backbreakers and three powerbombs. Lesnar was something special at this point. You can tell Vince really groomed this guy to be a big star for a long time. He had the look, the physique, the nasty disposition and the big power moves. If this was the mid-80s he probably would be a big time heel and booked to face Hogan on the house show circuit. In 2002 it works a little faster and his rise begins here. Grade: 1.5

Justin: After destroying various wrestlers for the last four weeks, Brock Lesnar has his first official match. Jeff Hardy steps in for his brother to defend Lita’s honor, but he was no match for Lesnar’s freakish power. Jeff tried to stick and move but Brock just pounded him down. The crowd was behind Jeff but was just in awe of Brock as he manhandled Jeff and tossed him all around the ring. Jeff was able to hot a few high risk moves and the Swanton but Lesnar kicked out of all of them. Jeff would grab a chair, but it wouldn’t matter as Brock levels him with the F5. Heyman yells for Brock to keep the assault on and not to pin Hardy. Brock would listen to his agent and continue to punish Hardy until Teddy Long stops the fight. Lesnar looked like a monster here and his reign of terror was just starting. Grade: 2

5) Kurt Angle defeats Edge (Adam Copeland) with the Angle Slam at 13:25

Scott: The up and down undercard continues with a great battle between two guys who seem to mesh perfectly in the ring together. They were 2/3 of the awesome “Team ECK” faction in mid 2000 and after both had a pretty good 2001, they get together and have an exceptional match. Edge really turns the corner during this feud, as he found a way to really mesh with his opponent and put together a great match. Kurt defeated Kane at Wrestlemania in a so-so match, but gets back in the groove with a really good match here. The crowd is really into it as both men hit some big time stuff, including a boatload of German suplexes and many maneuvers where both guys go over the top rope over and over. There were a good amount of two counts and the crowd was buying all of them. After Edge got pinfall win over Angle on Smackdown a few weeks before, Kurt evens the series here with a clean win after an Olympic Slam. We’ll see a rematch next month with quite a bit more on the line. Grade: 4.5

Justin: Heading into this show with a basic feud stemming from a tough TV loss and some offbeat shenanigans, Kurt Angle and Edge set out to steal the show. After years of hearing about his main event level potential, Edge finally had a true chance to step up and deliver a classic singles match with a top star. Kurt had his usual heat and the crowd was off the hook and super hot for the red hot pace the match had early on. Edge was aggressive throughout which was good to see. He also had nice comeback attempts throughout and sold very well for Angle too. The match had a big match feel and a buzz in the arena as the two men battled and traded high impact offensive moves including a crazy top rope belly-to-belly at one point. The crazy pace continued into a frenzied finish with a series of near falls that had the crowd biting each time. Angle would catch Edge with a nasty kick on a spear attempt and then take him over with an Angle slam for the win. Despite losing the match, Edge still won as he proved he could hang with the big boys. This was a big step in his elevation and the feel of the match lets you know he would be back in this setting again many times over. This was an awesome match that still had me on the edge of my seat seven years later. Grade: 4.5

*** Chris Jericho comes out to complain that he is not in a match tonight but management ensured Kidman, Trish and Maven are wrestling. He just main evented Wrestlemania and is left off of Backlash, not to mention that old creepy bastard Hulk Hogan is in the main event. ***

6) Eddie Guerrero defeats Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) to win WWF Intercontinental Title with the Frog Splash at 11:43

Fun Fact: After being sent to rehab in May of 2001, Eddie Guerrero was finally released in November for being arrested for driving under the influence. After cleaning up his act, Eddie began dominating the Independent scene, looking to regain his job with WWF. He would wrestle on the initial Ring of Honor card as well as work some shows for the fledgling WWA in Australia. After trading the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship with CM Punk, Eddie finally got the call he had been waiting for. He vacated the WWA Cruiserweight title and packed his bags for Stamford. He made his return on the April 1 Raw as he attacked RVD after a match with Booker T. Eddie snapped him down with a powerbomb and dropped the frog splash on him. Eddie Guerrero was back and looked to be in the best shape of his life.

Eddie makes his return after being out since last April, and he has virtually no ring rust on him at all. He was let go for many personal issues and they became ones that he needed to tackle on his own. He had a rough go of it with painkillers and alcohol, including getting arrested for driving under the influence. Now he’s back, clean and ready to go. This match is tremendous as Eddie really dictates the heel pace here, pretty much diffusing all of RVD’s offense with some slick maneuvers himself. RVD, like another wrestler later on, sees his big Wrestlemania win forgotten after one month. That’s ok, as Eddie and RVD will have more of these unbelievable matches, and this first match was a positive portent of things to come. Grade: 4

Justin: After being gone for just under a year, Eddie Guerrero had cleaned up his act and gained a huge underground following and a whole lot of credibility and hype due to the fantastic matches he was putting on all around the world. With WCW and ECW going under, 2002 almost saw a return to the old territory system as a whole bunch of Independent promotions starting sprouting up around the country and even around the world. A few of them even ventured right onto PPV. Many of them would quickly fold as the money marks and promoters realized that the massive popularity of wrestling was starting to dry up. Two prominent promotions, TNA and ROH, would form during this time and continue to exist to this day. Eddie was a mainstay of these fledgling promotions but as soon as Vince came calling, he made his way back home. The crowd was still spent from the last match early on but the frenetic pace would get them back into this one as well. RVD worked in his usual offense but Eddie shut him down left and right and maintained control. Eddie worked stiff and crisp and was on top of game as he worked RVD’s lower back. Both men unleashed some neat offense as the match wore on and they just seemed destined to mesh well based on their styles. Eddie just punished RVD, countered all his offense and picked him apart before crushing him with his frog splash and taking home the title. RVD put Eddie over strong and he already seemed like a big time player just weeks into his return. This was a great exhibition and was only the beginning of a beautiful feud. Grade: 4

7) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Steve Austin (Steve Williams) to earn an Undisputed Championship match after a chair shot at 27:03

Fun Fact: After taking a short vacation following Wrestlemania, Steve Austin blew off his steam over his issues with the creative team and was ready to return to action. The April 1 Raw was centered on his return and eventual decision as to which show he would sign with: Raw or Smackdown. Austin would sign with Flair and Raw after dropping Vince with a stunner at the end of the night. After signing the pact, he also dropped Flair with a stunner as well. He would follow that up with another stunner on Flair a week later. Austin was granted this match here as Flair was trying to determine the next Raw challenger for the Undisputed title. After both men warned Flair to stay out of their business, Flair named himself as the referee because he could.

Fun Fact II:
After having been vicious enemies over the past few months, Flair drafted Undertaker to Raw so he could continue to make his life miserable.

This is the final PPV encounter in one of the landmark feuds of the Attitude Era. It started back in 1997 and ends tonight. Of course, with time comes rust, and this match showed it. Maybe in 1998 or 1999 they could have gone twenty-seven minutes, but tonight when the matches lower down the card were much better than this one on paper, twenty-seven minutes is way too long. Of course Austin, who’s already showing signs of paranoia and stress from his slot getting pushed down, tried to go all out with the Bad Ass but really the match was in slow motion for the most part. The crowd kept the match going somewhat, and Ric Flair’s refereeing kept some suspense throughout. Here’s another chance that the WWE had to have a Hogan/Austin match, but it would have been at Judgment Day which would have been a colossal waste of the match. However with some chicanery, Taker wins the match and the spot. Austin’s foot was on the rope and Flair, who hit a perfect angle so he couldn’t see it, counts to three and awards the match to the Deadman. One point I need to make about Austin: Since losing to Chris Jericho at No Way Out and getting marked by the NWO, he seems oddly out of place in the company. With Triple H back, and the addition of Hulk Hogan plus the post-Alliance additions like RVD and Booker T, 1998 suddenly seems like such a long time ago. I think Austin was seeing what I was seeing watching this match. Taker for some reason doesn’t seem out of place, but Austin does. I can understand his thinking that he was being shoved out the door, but his actions that are forthcoming were unacceptable for any workplace, much less the WWF. Austin’s relationship with the company doesn’t get any better, but on camera it’s Undertaker who will face the winner of our final match. As for Flair, after the match he sees his error, and does a great “Aw shit”. Yup, that’s about the extent of it. Grade: 2

Justin: After Ric Flair enters to a good reaction, Steve Austin rocks the house to a giant pop from the Kansas City crowd. This was another match tonight that had a big time feel to it as there was another buzz in the air. The match had a slow start as the two men felt each other out. Austin would actually try to wrestle Taker down but Taker was able to overpower him and take over. Flair called things fairly early on as he watched Austin hit all his usual spots before the two men would brawl out to the floor. He would stand clear of both men and Lawler would say that Flair was just intimidated out there as he let them brawl all over the place. Scott Hall and X-Pac would make their way out and observe from the aisle as well. The match had a slow pace but it wasn’t really boring at all and the crowd agreed as they stayed into it. The two veterans showed great timing as Austin’s comebacks would also happen just as the crowd was starting to fade. Austin would hit a stunner but Flair had been knocked out and was unable to count the pin. Taker would take the chance to use a chair, but Austin would kick out. After a series of near falls, Taker would use the chair again and get the win, despite Austin’s foot being on the rope. Even though he called a good match, that mistake at the end would cost Flair over the upcoming weeks. The match was too long but the slow pace actually worked for the story they were telling. I actually enjoyed this a bit more on this viewing, perhaps because it didn’t have the stale feel that it may have had at the time. Grade: 2.5

8) Billy (Monte Sop) & Chuck (Chuck Palumbo) defeat Al Snow (Al Sarven) & Maven (Maven Huffman) to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Billy pins Maven after a Chuck superkick at 5:58

Fun Fact:
Rico Constantino was a developmental talent who had signed a deal after just twelve matches. He had actually already been a minor TV star prior to his WWF stint as he won the championship of the first half of the 1990-1991 season of American Gladiators. He would end up losing the grand championship match by just two seconds on the Eliminator. After a stint on the Power Team, in which he traveled the world performing feats of strength, Rico was discovered and signed by Terry Taylor and Tom Pritchard. He would get the call and debut as Billy & Chuck’s personal stylist on the 3/21 Smackdown.

A pretty decent little tussle to separate the two big matches. Once again Billy Gunn is doing what he does best: competing as on half of a tag team. He’s a good wrestler when working with a partner. From Bart Gunn to Road Dogg, Billy always played well with others. What didn’t go well was his forgotten 1999 solo run. Ugh. Now he’s back with Chuck P in the “Ace & Gary” gimmick and they are the reigning tag team champions. The first Tough Enough grad is getting a nice, calm handheld start to his career. Al Snow was a solid tutor and now Maven, already a former Hardcore champion, gets a chance at tag team gold. Of course they’re not going to win it, but at least they get a chance to be on PPV. The match wasn’t bad, with typical heel chicanery leading to the Pretty Boy team’s win. They also debut their manager Rico, a flamboyant fashion consultant. Grade: 2

Justin: After three straight big time matches, the crowd is starting to lose steam. This match was a classic palate cleanser and all four men work hard in it. After a quick brawl to start, Billy & Chuck would double team and take over. Maven actually looked pretty sharp here and he seemed to be off to a good start in his career. The basic tag formula brought the crowd back into it and that was a testament to these guys going out and busting it instead of coasting in a no-win position. Rico helps his charges pick up the win as they continue to roll on. Grade: 2

9) Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) defeats Triple H (Paul Levesque) to win WWF Undisputed Title with a leg drop after an Undertaker chair shot at 22:04

Fun Fact: After drafting Hulk Hogan to Smackdown, Vince would fight to ensure a representative of his brand got the first Undisputed title match. Ric Flair had initially announced Undertaker as the top contender and it was announced that he would face Triple H here. However, Vince came out and said one of the provisions of the extension was that he got to name the first contender and he chose Hogan.

Fun Fact II:
After the fans turned him face at Wrestlemania, Hulk Hogan ditched his infamous NWO gear and returned to his red and yellow legacy. He quickly became friends with the Rock and they teamed up a few times to battle the NWO on TV. Backstage, Vince got caught up in all of the nostalgia as well and decided to the belt back on Hogan to see if he could pop business. Unfortunately for Vince, he didn’t realize that a nostalgia pop may be a bit different than fans clamoring for the clearly aging Hogan to be the top dog and the move would quickly backfire.

Fun Fact III:
Due to a pre-match stipulation added by Vince, after losing the belt here Triple H was absorbed into the Smackdown roster. Hogan could now float between shows for as long as he held the Undisputed Championship.

Our main event pits one of the greatest of all time against the current top dog. Now this of course was a complete re-working of the post-Wrestlemania storylines. I’m sure the writers weren’t anticipating Hogan getting this over with the fans. I would say they thought of turning Hogan face later on down the line depending on what the landscape was on storylines. The other reason has been the flat response to the Triple H face run since he returned in January. Of course a lot of that was the ass-backwards storyline involving Jericho leading into Wrestlemania, as that was more Triple H vs. Stephanie with Jericho as the third wheel. The crowd wasn’t sure what to make of the feud, but clearly at Wrestlemania they had no energy after the Hogan/Rock match to give the title match any type of juice. Now Triple H must face the overwhelming support of the Kansas City fans for the now Red & Yellow clad former champion. The match was not expected to be five stars, but the crowd sure gave it a lot of extra juice during the portion when Trips was working Hogan’s braced knee over. The match moves along at a slow-to-moderate pace until the double run-ins. Chris Jericho runs in, pissed off that he’s left off the show one month after main eventing Wrestlemania. He breaks up Hulk Hogan’s pin attempt, and Triple H beats him up. Then a few minutes later, the new #1 contender comes down, breaks up Triple H’s pin attempt and then pastes him with a steel chair. Hogan throws Taker out of the ring, hits the leg drop and wins his sixth WWF Championship. Triple H’s big time Wrestlemania face run as champ lasts only one month thanks to Hulkamania. A rough couple of months in terms of workrate quality to come, but from a nostalgia viewpoint this is a big moment for Hulk Hogan and the fans in Kansas City, who need a happy moment after what happened the last time Kemper Arena hosted a PPV. Grade: 3

Justin: Despite a long night filled with some hot action, the crowd still has enough in the tank to give both competitors a sizeable pop during the entrances. Triple H was still just way too damn big at this point but it didn’t matter too much as Hogan had to work a slower pace anyway. They would have the classic showdown in the center of the ring and the crowd quickly turned pro-Hogan during the initial power struggle. After some basic power offense, Hogan would unleash a nice suplex on the floor to pick things up a bit. Hogan was actually moving fairly well here and he looked to be in better condition than he was at Wrestlemania. Hunter would take control and zero in on the knee which instantly turned the crowd vociferously against him. They would rally Hogan loudly as Hunter locked in a figure four. Hulk would fight back and end up dropping the leg but the bitter Jericho would break up the pin. Jericho wanted to be the one to beat Triple H so he actually helps him here. The crowd would explode as Hogan Hulked Up, but Hunter put a stop to it and dropped a Pedigree. He covered, but Undertaker showed up and broke up that pin too. He would smash Hunter with a chair and Hulk would drop the leg and pick up his sixth World title. The crowd gave the win a huge pop and Hunter and Hogan would shake hands after the match. Thanks to the crowd heat and Hogan’s surprising mobility, this match was way better than it had the right to be. Even though it wasn’t on the level of Rock/Hogan, this was still a pretty big time matchup of two big stars and they delivered. Hunter held the title for just one month as Hogan capitalized on the nostalgia of the WWF fans and regained his WWF Championship. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Grade: 3

Final Analysis:

Scott: This PPV has plenty of up and down moments. The undercard has a couple of awesome gems in Edge/Angle and RVD/Guerrero. The opening match between Tajiri and Kidman was a pretty solid opener. However there are some big time duds. The Hall/Bradshaw match was a slow kicky/punchy mess. Obviously it ruined things to have Hall win the match, then get the ol’ heave-ho shortly after. The women’s match was kind of sloppy, and the Austin/Taker match was very slow and plodding, far from their World Title match at Summerslam in 1998. Even though Brock Lesnar’s win was a quick squash and not much to grade, we’ll give it a pass since it was his debut and a match that marks the beginning of what seems like a new era, a fresh addition to the company. Hulk Hogan steals the show for the fans tonight, but in terms of workrate at the top we’re in for a rough couple of months. I’ll grade this one a little higher than average because the undercard matches were that good. Final Grade: B

Justin: As Scott said this show was very up and down, but I must say that is much better than its reputation states. Even though ratings and interest in wrestling were sliding, the big time feel was still there and there was a lot major things happening. After nearly a year of discussion on the topic, the brand split finally happened. It looked to be a shrewd idea in the beginning but unfortunately, as we will see, it was bad timing as injuries and backstage issues would severely drain the enormous talent pool and begin to weaken the product. At this point, though, the roster was still stocked with top flight talent and the idea of two separate shows with different feels and focuses seemed like a novel idea. Once reason that I liked the brand extension idea is the fact that many of the stars would not be as over exposed due to only being on TV once a week instead of twice. Also, many wrestlers at the bottom of the card would be given a chance to step up and fill time. The tough part over the next year is deciding which three or four matches from each show would grab PPV time each month. We will focus on that as the year goes along. As for this show, I enjoyed watching it and it had two superb hidden classics in the middle. The opener and main event were both quite fun as well, albeit for different reasons. The crowd stayed amped up the whole way through despite seeing major match after major match. I know I am grading a bit high for this but I feel a show with three matches at *** or higher, with two being at least ****, plus a hot crowd and historical moments deserves to earn a solid grade. Plus, I had fun watching it, so that counts for something too. Final Grade: B+

MVP: Hulk Hogan
Runner Up: Edge, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam & Eddie Guerrero
Non MVP: Triple H
Runner Up: Undertaker & Steve Austin

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