July 21, 2002
Joe Louis Arena
Buy Rate: .94
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, and Tazz
Fun Fact: New Smackdown General Manager Stephanie McMahon announced that Michael Cole & Tazz will do the first half of the PPV, and JR and King will do the second half.
Fun Fact II: As we will detail below, after winning sole control of the company, Vince McMahon decided to hire a general manager for each show. He also announced that the rosters were open and wrestlers were free to sign with whichever they desired. This led to weeks of jumps by various stars until Vince announced that the rosters would lock as the year progressed.
Fun Fact III: As mentioned above, Vince McMahon announced two new general managers the week of July 15th. The shorter explanation is Smackdown, where Vince McMahon decided to choose his daughter Stephanie, now more mature looking and less whiny, as the boss of the blue show. As for Raw, Vince’s choice came completely out of left field. Eric Bischoff began his wrestling career in the Minneapolis area, doing sales for Verne Gagne’s AWA. Eventually he would take over the main announcing duties for the last two years that the AWA was in business. When the promotion closed, Bischoff moved onto WCW where he worked his way up the announcer food chain. He would shockingly be promoted to Executive Producer, edging out Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. He would help create WCW Monday Nitro in 1995 to compete with the WWF’s Monday Night Raw. For the next five years, Bischoff’s lone goal was to put the WWF out of business. He attempted to do that by luring big time stars like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage from the WWF with guaranteed big money and lighter schedules. When the New World Order storyline started in the summer of 1996, WCW dominated the Monday Ratings for close to two years. By 1998 Steve Austin exploded and the WWF took over the war, while Bischoff was too busy buddying up to Hogan, Nash and watching the company cave into itself. He would be let go in late 1999 in favor of Vince Russo. Bischoff would return for a short stay in 2000 and he would eventually try to buy WCW in 2001 in a partnership with a company named Fuscient. The deal fell through when AOL/Time Warner refused to keep WCW programming on their network, so they sold WCW to Vince McMahon for significantly less money. Bischoff has been out of the limelight until the 7/15 Raw in New Jersey, when the unthinkable happened. During a backstage segment, Eric Bischoff randomly walked by a shocked Booker T and forcibly shook his hand. After a commercial break, Vince McMahon came out and announced Eric Bischoff as his new GM. In a moment for the ages, they hugged on the stage. Bischoff went on to cut a lengthy promo, plugging all of his accomplishments and promising to shake up Raw through ruthless aggression. He would immediately institute a few changes, with the first one being to move JR and the King from ringside to up by the entrance ramp, just like the old setup on Nitro. Lawler said on the air that back in the late 90s Vince used to wish death on Eric Bischoff. We believe it.
Sunday Night Heat
Goldust (Dustin Runnells) defeats Steven Richards (Michael Manna)
Pay Per View
1) Bubba Ray (Ray Lomonica) & Spike (Matt Hyson) Dudley defeat Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero in a tables match when Benoit is Bubba-Bombed through a table at 14:59
Fun Fact: Chris Benoit makes his return here after being out for thirteen months recouping from neck surgery. He ruptured a disc which fragmented into his spinal column after Chris Jericho superplexed him at the 2001 King of the Ring. He was drafted to Smackdown, but made his on-air return on the 5/27 Raw from his hometown of Edmonton. He would be in Eddie Guerrero’s corner for a portion of Latino Heat’s match at King of the Ring against Ric Flair. Benoit wanted revenge on Steve Austin for injuring him the year before and he blamed Ric Flair for stealing that opportunity from him by driving Austin from the company. Bubba Ray would come to Flair’s aid on Raw so Benoit and Guerrero turned their aim on the Brothers from Dudleyville to take out their aggressions.
Scott: A really good opener to get the show going, as we have four guys who have no problem working stiff and cracking the hell out of each other. Benoit was probably chomping at the bit to get back into the ring after being cooped up for over a year. Benoit and Guerrero, along with Triple H, blew straight threw the Invasion storyline, which incidentally feels like it was ages ago as we are one year to the show that it officially started. The match is solid, as all four guys throw each other around and hit some stiff shots. Benoit in particular is frisky since he hadn’t been in the ring for a while. Vince was giving Bubba Ray a chance to shine as a solo star but for some reason he just didn’t have that charisma to be a solo superstar. His former partner D-Von had the charisma, but his gimmick fell flat after a few months. The Dudleys win but both Eddie and Benoit would rebound. Grade: 2.5
Justin: After a year on the shelf, Chris Benoit returns to PPV in tremendous shape, rust free and ready to go. He and Eddie were intense and crisp right out of the gate and it really set the tone for the whole match. Eddie had some great heat on him here and the crowd is into the beatdown on Bubba early on. Eddie and Chris used some nice double teams to control and made sure the bout kept a good pace as the action never stopped. I also want to compliment Tazz who did an awesome job adding insight and psychology to the match. The Dudleys worked well together too and they each had some nice saves to prevent the other from going through a table. As the match wore on, the nasty bumps piled up. Eddie took a stiff one when Spike gave him the Dudley Dog through a table on the floor and then Benoit got revenge by press slamming Spike from the ring outside through a table. Bubba would end up stealing the win and the crowd reacted with a huge pop. I think Eddie and Chris needed the win more because they were set up for bigger things, but I guess they were still trying to legitimize Bubba. Still, all four men worked really hard and delivered a really fun and stiff opening brawl. Grade: 3
2) Jamie Noble (James Gibson) defeats Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner) to retain WWE Cruiserweight Title with the Tiger Driver at 7:34
Fun Fact: Kidman defeated Noble in a tag match on the July 11 Smackdown.
Scott: The Cruiserweight division continues to be a high point of the post-Invasion WWE. Noble and his hot trashy girlfriend Nidia have been running roughshod over the division since April, and now Noble defeats one of WCW’s best Cruiserweights in the final years. These Cruiser matches have been a big boost to the cards while the main events have been both stagnant and in flux at the same time. So while things at the top are working themselves out, the lower part of the card has been doing well with a combination of Cruiser matches and bouts involving newly drafted guys and fresh matchups. Noble wins with a slick finisher that hadn’t been seen much the past couple of years. Our pretty smoking undercard continues. Grade: 2.5
Justin: The cruiserweight division is again front and center as the brand split has allowed for actual angles and stories to develop. After winning the gold, Noble and Nidia have been living the good life and buying some lavish gifts for themselves. After picking up a non title win, Kidman was looking to take his belt back. Billy showed good fire throughout the match and the crowd definitely latched on to him. The pace was fast early but Noble slowed things up a bit to work on the shoulder, which Kidman sold like a champ. Once he turned the tables. Kidman used his innovative offense to get the pace back up. Kidman got a bunch of near falls and hit some big moves, including a nice BK Bomb off the top rope. Noble would persevere and pick up a big win to keep hold of the title. This was a fun cruiser battle that featured a fast pace and some neat offense. Grade: 2.5
3) Jeff Hardy defeats William Regal (Darren Matthews) to retain WWE European Title with a roll-up at 4:16
Fun Fact: Jeff Hardy had an interesting month of July. He started a feud with the Undisputed Champion Undertaker which culminated in a legendary ladder match on the 7/1 Raw from Manchester, New Hampshire in which there were two times where Hardy was a legitimate fingernail away from becoming the champ. After that loss, in which we saw Taker show “the crazy kid” some respect, Hardy defeated Regal on the 7/8 Raw to win the European Title.
Fun Fact II: The European Title changed a few times since we last saw it defended by Diamond Dallas Page at Wrestlemania. Regal defeated Page on the 3/21 Smackdown, then Spike Dudley defeated Regal on the 4/8 Raw. Regal won it back on the 5/6 Raw before Hardy beat him on 7/8.
Scott: Jeff Hardy’s solo run continues to build momentum after a nice win over a seasoned veteran like Regal. It was clear from the moment that the Hardys broke up that the higher ups considered Jeff the better main event draw over Matt. He was still a vital piece of the WWE puzzle, but they did not look at him with that same gleam in their eye like they have with his brother. That 7/1 match with Undertaker was one of 2002’s best matches. Maybe not for the workrate alone, but for the drama the match brought as the crowd was on the edge of their seat, literally waiting for what would have been the biggest upset in WWE history. It didn’t happen, but it didn’t hurt Jeff’s aura or his resume. He won the European Title a couple weeks before from the Blueblood from Blackpool, and here he wins the rematch in a short but effective bout. Regal continues to be very serviceable in every situation he’s put in. Not much more to say, as the show continues to be very entertaining with great action and logical finishes. Grade: 2.5
Justin: After being brought to tears when Jeff took his belt, Regal comes out motivated and looking for revenge. Jeff’s big solo push was on and he delivered a classic ladder match with Undertaker on Raw earlier this month. He was rewarded with the European title and he would continue to deliver in the ring. He does a nice job of meshing styles with Regal and countering all of his offense. Speaking of which, Regal used some great power offense on Jeff before Jeff stole the win to keep his belt. Jeff continues to roll on and Regal takes a step back to the rest of the pack. This was a good match and they packed a lot into a short amount of time. Grade: 2.5
*** Ric Flair and Hollywood Hogan put over Jeff Hardy backstage, talking about how awesome he is and pushing him as the future. They then compare the new GMs and talk about the perils of each. ***
4) John Cena defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) with a roll-up at 6:21
Fun Fact: Well here we are. The kid from West Newbury, Massachusetts who will eventually become the Hulk Hogan of the 21st century makes his debut. He started his career in the UPW promotion in California, using a robotic gimmick called “Prototype”. He was the UPW champion for about a month in 2000 before WWE signed him and moved him to Ohio Valley Wrestling, where he held the Championship for three months. His WWE debut was on the 6/27 Raw where he answered Kurt Angle’s open challenge. He lost to Angle, but did pin Jericho in a tag team match on the July 9 Smackdown when Cena was teaming with the Undertaker and Jericho was teaming with Kurt Angle. Jericho was not pleased and looked for revenge here.
Scott: So before we go on, let’s be honest and say no one at this stage of the game expected John Cena to become the John Cena of 2009 from watching this match. Sure he was a good looking guy with a nice physique and a few moves. But really he was just some guy who got the best of Chris Jericho twice in the month of July. I mentioned this at King of the Ring, and that is if anybody should really feel like crap right now it’s Chris Jericho. He starts the year as WWE Undisputed Champion, and gets back to back PPV wins over the two biggest stars of the last five years. He loses to Triple H at Wrestlemania, and it’s been one job after another. Now he’s losing to nameless guys who have just been brought up to the roster. Sure things look up at the end of the year and he gets the storyline of his life. Right now he’s fodder for everybody. Cena looks good in his PPV debut match, but he’ll get a makeover soon enough. Not much of a match, but a pretty slick roll-up by Cena to surprise Jericho and literally steal a win. Grade: 2
Justin: After the brand extension settled in, each show began bringing up some young talent from Ohio Valley. Many of the wrestlers called up during the summer of 2002 would go on to become major players for the rest of the decade. One of those wrestlers was John Cena. Many people felt Cena had the look from day one and he was often compared to Sting in look, energy and style. Early on, they went with the plucky babyface rookie role and while he put on some good matches, the fans didn’t quite take to him just yet. The story here was clearly the arrogant veteran trying to take advantage of the rookie. Jericho shockingly lost to Cena on Smackdown and was looking to even the score here. Cena also had received the Undertaker seal of respect prior to this show as well. Jericho smacked Cena around early on, clearly underestimating his ability. You could tell that even at this point these two guys had great chemistry as they move fluidly together. Jericho would cheat and get some good near falls but Cena would steal the win with a roll up to pick up another major victory. This was another in a line of short, fun, energetic fast paced matches here tonight. Grade: 2.5
***Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler take over on commentary. ***
5) Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) defeats Brock Lesnar by disqualification at 9:38; Van Dam retains WWE Intercontinental Title
Fun Fact: Van Dam attacked Lesnar the night after King of the Ring to continue this feud and set up this match. Paul Heyman would also start to take credit for making Rob Van Dam a star.
Scott: This match was nothing more than a placeholder for Lesnar till his big match at Summerslam. Logically the bookers painted themselves into a corner. If they had plans on Lesnar winning the Undisputed Title, he wasn’t going to win this match outright. As much as RVD is crazy over, he certainly wasn’t going to pin Lesnar in this match. So just give the two of them ten minutes to kill time, have Heyman get involved and end in a schmozz. No biggie, I can understand that. Solid match as Brock did have the complete heel package: The snarling look, the vicious power moves, the lack of respect for smaller opponents and the annoying heel manager. Brock had that ring presence as a big time guy, and next month at Summerslam he gets his chance to become one. For RVD this is just a workout match as he moves towards his first real chance at the big time. Not a bad match, but again just a spot to fill on the card. Grade: 2.5
Justin: In the rematch from last month, Brock Lesnar was looking to notch one more major victory on his belt before heading to Summerslam. The creative team kind of booked themselves into a corner here as they couldn’t have Brock lose before his big main event next month and they didn’t want him to win the IC belt from RVD, so we get the schmozz ending. The crowd was behind RVD here as he used his speed to avoid Brock’s power early on. He would also land some quick strikes, but Brock was able to take control with his vicious power offense. At one point he even crushed RVD with a stiff powerslam on the floor. The match slowed down a bit as Brock went to the submission holds, but the crowd stayed in it and it made for a fun RVD comeback. It seemed like were winding to a hot finish with some good near falls, but that ended quickly when Heyman got involved to draw the DQ. Brock would get some heat back by beating down RVD after the match, but he really could have used a decisive win on this show. They should have made it non title or just switched someone else into the match so he could roll. Regardless, Brock was ready to roll into Summerslam for his first crack at the Undisputed Championship. RVD would switch gears and move on to a new feud and a renewed push as the top face on Raw. This grade would have been higher with a decisive finish. Grade: 2.5
*** Backstage, Eric Bischoff was waiting outside Stephanie’s office, where Triple H also was. Bischoff had been badgering and begging Triple H to sign with Raw and thought the meeting with Steph was the end of his dream. When the door opened, Steph told Eric that Hunter had signed and then walked off. When Hunter emerged, Bischoff gave him an earful until Hunter told him that he had only signed his divorce papers and not a contract. Hunter angrily walked off as Bischoff realized his own stupidity before proclaiming his confidence. ***
6) Booker T (Booker Huffman) defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) with the scissors kick in a No Disqualification match at 6:12
Fun Fact: The NWO had undergone some radical changes since the spring. Kevin Nash shocked everyone and introduced Shawn Michaels into the NWO on June 3 Raw. The next week, Michaels superkicked Booker out of the NWO, citing a new “tough love” policy. In joining, Michaels was the first NWO member who had never wrestled in WCW. The NWO slowly started to lose momentum and members as X-Pac would be released from his contract and Big Show would be superkicked out of the group by Shawn as well. Michaels and Nash set their sights on recruiting Triple H into the NWO, basically saying that they were bringing back the Clique. On July 8, Kevin Nash returned to action on Raw, as he teamed with Eddie Guerrero, X-Pac, the Big Show and Chris Benoit to battle Booker T, Goldust, Bubba Ray Dudley, Spike Dudley, and Rob Van Dam. A few moments after he tagged in for the first time, Nash tore his quad while running across the ring. He was immediately back on the injured list and the NWO now seemed to be running on empty. The following week, Vince McMahon came out to the ring to the NWO theme and he proclaimed that the group was officially disbanded. That would be the final mention of the NWO as an entity in WWE. The Nash injury would become a running joke amongst internet fans as the injury prone star tore his muscle by simply running. The NWO had a ballyhooed debut back in February but the whole idea seemed destined to fail from the start.
Fun Fact II: Booker had defeated Big Show on the July 15 Raw but Show chokeslammed him through the announce table after the match.
Fun Fact III: Even though he was on a few shows in 2002, X-Pac’s last PPV match was at Summerslam 2001. His all time record was 21-25-1. There are a couple of stories circulating regarding X-Pac’s release. According to some reports, he was set to feud with and eventually lose to Booker T, but he refused to lie down. X-Pac has since denied this and claimed a botched spinebuster gave him an injury and put him on the sidelines. The apparent resistance to jobbing combined with an incident at an airport where he collapsed for what was reported as unknown reasons, led to X-Pac being released by WWE on August 25, 2002. He would bounce around various Indies and had a stint in TNA, but he would become most famous for his relationship with Chyna. The two made a sex tape and also had a well known confrontation when Chyna was a participant on VH-1’s Surreal Life. Waltman was tossed off the show when Chyna refused to reconcile with him. He was eventually checked into rehab by his friend Kevin Nash, a rehab that is reportedly being funded by WWE under their current wellness policy.
Scott: This was the only match that I was really disappointed in. This was a big win for Booker T as he moves into his face run, but the match itself wasn’t anything that great. Big Show was his typical lumbering self, but I think I didn’t get into this match because it came as a residual of this mess of a storyline that was the NWO. After Hall was given the boot and Nash got hurt, what was once the biggest heel faction in all of professional wrestling became a shell of its former self. Even with the addition of Shawn Michaels, the group really had no sizzle without Hall and Nash. So now this match is effectively another filler match. Not much more to say here, except Booker T will go from angry former WCW guy, to a great straight man for a tandem that would be very entertaining for the rest of 2002. He and Goldust had a funny skit with Rock at King of the Ring, and they would end up staying together and become a great combination for comedy and in-ring entertainment. Grade: 2
Justin: Despite the NWO being dead and buried, these two still had issues with each other stemming from their days in the stable. Booker was now a face as that was solidified when Shawn Michaels nailed him with a superkick a few weeks back. Booker wrestles aggressively here and shows some great fire that had been lacking so far in 2002. Show would dominate with his power and the two would brawl on the floor and around the ring. Booker was actually pretty over with the crowd here and he gets a big pop for the finish. He actually even nailed a picture perfect Harlem Hangover prior to putting Show away. Booker was really impressive here and the two men worked hard to pump out a solid match in a short time frame. Booker would continue to gain popularity and momentum as the year goes on. Grade: 2
*** Triple H comes out to decide which show he was going to be on, either Raw or Smackdown. After banter between Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon, Triple H picked Smackdown because he wanted to go with “the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t know.” Out came Shawn Michaels, who persuaded his former DX running buddy to go on Raw. ***
7) Lance Storm (Lance Evers) & Christian (Jay Reso) defeat Edge (Adam Copeland) & Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) to win WWE Tag Team Titles when Christian pins Edge after a belt shot at 10:00
Fun Fact: On the July 4th Smackdown from Boston, Hulk Hogan came out to be Edge’s partner and they defeated Billy & Chuck to win the titles. Hogan came out to “Real American”, the first time he’s used that song since his loss to Yokozuna at the 1993 King of the Ring. This was also his first time holding the tag team championship.
Fun Fact II: After foreshadowing the assembly of an Anti-American movement at King of the Ring, Lance Storm and Christian set out to put their plan into action. The Un-Americans were officially formed when Storm publicly claimed that WWE had been discriminating against Canadians for years, even citing the Montreal Screwjob to back up his claim. His occasional tag partner Christian and fellow Canadian Test joined the stable as well. As indicated by the name, the Un-Americans differed from their predecessors like the Hart Foundation and WCW’s Team Canada in that they were anti-American rather than pro-Canadian. As a result of this, they carried an American flag flown upside down rather than the Canadian flag. The upside down American flag is known as the national distress sign. Storm & Christian are assisted here by Chris Jericho, another Canadian. Jericho was the one that proposed this match to Vince McMahon, and subsequently helped them win the match when he hits Edge with one of the belts. Jericho would not formally join the stable and had only helped due being embroiled in a feud with Edge. According to Storm, the original plan was to have the four Canadians form a group called “C-4”, but plans were scrapped and changed to the above scenario.
Scott: A pretty exciting match that the crowd was really into, mostly because the “Hulkster” was back in full form. Gone were the black colors, NWO tags and the “Hollywood” feel. The Red and Yellow was back, and I think you could tell it was back for good. Sure the NWO Hogan was extremely successful, but that was with a different audience and a different time. These fans wanted the Hulk Hogan they grew up with. So when he came out on that Smackdown with the Red and Yellow (which he had already been wearing) but now combined with his “Real American” theme, the place exploded and their childhood hero was back. Sure Justin and I are quite partial to “Voodoo Chile”, but again that was his “Hollywood” persona. Things feel right in the world when our Hulk Hogan is in a WWE ring. On the other side of the ring was a burgeoning heel stable that garnered a lot of heat but certainly had the in ring goods. Christian and Lance Storm were looking for identities after the Invasion ended, and this storyline seemed to suit them perfectly: angry Canadians. It’s funny that the writers seem to always go back to hating Canada when they don’t have anything for Canadian wrestlers to do. That’s ok, as long as it brings a solid product to the ring. In this case it does, from the hot crowd to the evil chicanery with fellow Angry Canadians Jericho and Test leading to the cheap win. It was an all-around great package and Hogan does the right thing, although I don’t think Edge really had to eat the pin. A half point knock for that. Grade: 2.5
Justin: After a big run on top of the card, Hulk Hogan has settled into the mid card quite nicely. After putting over Kurt Angle last month, he teamed up with Edge on July 4 and took home the tag team titles in a great moment. That didn’t sit well with the anti-American contingent on Smackdown, so Edge and Hogan put the belts on the line here. The champs get the expected pop from the fans and Edge showed great fire early on and you can see he is playing with a high level of confidence after his series with Kurt Angle in the spring. The four men worked a formula tag match and Storm & Christian excelled at the necessary heel work throughout. The heat segment on Hogan was especially well done as was the Test interference and subsequent awesome near fall. Rikishi comes out to run off Test, as he was also embattled in a feud with the Un-Americans. Jericho would then make his presence known and assist his fellow countrymen in taking home the titles. The nostalgia tag run was over and Edge would move into fantastic feud with Eddie Guerrero while Hogan would be used to further put over some younger stars. The Un-Americans snag some gold as they look to move up the ranks and prove their point. This was a basic formula match but the crowd raised it up a notch as they were rocking the whole way through. Grade: 2.5
*** Backstage, Eric Bischoff attempts to talk to Kurt Angle about jumping to Raw. Stephanie joins the fun and tells Eric that she will win the war and that she is in contact with Eric’s entire roster. She claims that she will rip the heart out of Raw very soon. ***
8) The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) & Kurt Angle to win WWE Undisputed Title when Rock pins Angle with the Rock Bottom at 19:35
Fun Fact: Undertaker was not very happy with the Rock after he ran interference in his title match at King of the Ring. The match here was originally supposed to be one-on-one between the two men as made official by Vince McMahon. On the July 4 Smackdown, Kurt Angle challenged Undertaker for the Undisputed Championship. The match ended in a draw when Taker tapped out as he pinned Angle while Kurt had him trapped in a triangle choke submission. The next week, Vince added Angle to this match, meaning Taker could now lose his belt without being defeated.
Scott: An exemplary main event involving three guys who really know how to tell a story. The crux of this whole thing is that Rock wants a title shot, so he interferes in Taker’s match with Triple H at King of the Ring just to piss him off and he gets his chance. Then Angle and Taker wrestle to a draw in an Undisputed Title match on Smackdown where Taker was getting pinned while choking Angle out with a submission move. So Angle is inserted into the match as well. That does nothing but make the match that much better. The frenetic pace and the numerous two-counts added drama and really stoked an already off the charts crowd. Angle and Rock do a lot of the main work while Taker gets some spots in and works the outside brawling. I think Angle was added to the match because as we detailed in the No Way Out review, Rock and Taker historically have worked some pretty crappy matches together. Now their match back in February in Milwaukee was not nearly as bad as some they’d had in the past, but adding Angle saves the match from being just average. This show was so great from top to bottom that really Rock and Taker for the Title alone probably wouldn’t have been that bad. Rock wins the Title, which sets up an awesome match for Summerslam based solely on hype: The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, The Great One vs. the Next Big Thing. No Summerslam match has been this anticipated since Austin and Taker in 1998. It will take a lot to match the excitement, workrate, and crowd energy of this match though. Nice job by all three competitors as the Rock wins World Title #7. Grade: 4
Justin: After four months away, the Rock makes his return to PPV and gets a crack at the Undertaker’s Undisputed gold. Angle was added to the mix after a great match with Taker on Smackdown and we were set up for a classic. Rock got a nice pop here, but Taker actually matched it as he was still getting cheered eight months into a nasty heel run. The match got off to a hot start and Kurt unleashed some great suplexes on Rock. Rock would battle back and actually hit a chokeslam on Taker, triggering a run of all three men trading finishers and gaining near falls. The three men would lay out the template for future triple threat matches as they keep a nice pace and trade control fluidly. Taker looked strong throughout, as you would expect from the current Undisputed champion. All three were exhausted at the end as the match became a classic heavyweight slugfest that was littered with near falls and last second saves. Angle and Taker had a great little battle between Kurt’s choke and Taker’s powerbomb. The crowd was totally hooked and rocking by the end as the match went into the awesome closing segment. Taker would indeed lose his belt without being pinned and the Rock was back on top of the mountain. He now had a date with destiny at Summerslam as he would take his newly won title into Long Island to try to slay the Next Big Thing. All three men would take interesting routes after this show and the crowd reactions for Taker and Rock one month from now would be very divergent from the ones they received here. If you haven’t seen this match, go check it out as it is certainly a hidden classic. To this point, it was easily the best triple threat match in WWE history. Grade: 4.5
Scott: A great show from top to bottom. The undercard is one solid match after another, whether it was draft supplants never facing each other, to entertaining stipulations to the title matches. Sure the grades weren’t off the charts, but for me it’s more than just the workrate in the ring. This was the first show where the freshness of the first draft really steps to the forefront. Guys not around one year before, from Eddie Guerrero to Chris Benoit were finally settling into the new WWE creative climate. Shawn Michaels walks away from that debacle of an NWO storyline and is now himself. What happens between now and our next show changes a major dynamic within the company creatively. It’s a change that will be one of the backbones of the company for the next four years. It will have its highs and lows, and be a major bone of contention with fans all over the world. This show had a great blend of drama, excitement, workrate and a great change of pace from the boring matches we’ve seen the last couple of shows. A new force has entered the landscape and with our next show will become a big piece of WWE programming for the next two years. Quite a bit happens in our next show. Stay tuned. For now we’ll gush over a great prelude to Summerslam, one of the best in a while. Final Grade: B+
Justin: For the third straight year, the July PPV serves as more than just a setup show for Summerslam. This year’s edition featured a rock solid midcard full of fun matches, hard work and a hot crowd. This is a weird show in a way, because the grades all trend lower but to me that isn’t really indicative of the effort or stories within the matches. I think the shorter length is what drives the lower grades. If a few more of those matches were given some more time to develop, they could have been even better. Still, it was great to see everyone on the card contribute and deliver in the ring. The opener and the main event clocked in as the best outings of the night and that was effective card structuring to really keep the crowd going. The main event was just outstanding on all levels as the Rock has some serious momentum going as heads towards Summerslam. I want to take a quick moment to mention the outstanding work of Cole and Tazz on this show. They were finally given the chance to announce on a PPV and they delivered in spades. They had great chemistry at this point and Tazz was amazing at breaking down the psychology of the wrestlers and their actions. Cole set the table by calling the match and tossing Tazz softballs to knock out of the park with his great insight. They brought a fresh feel and voice to PPV. I was glad they got a chance and will be even happier next month when the announcing duties become even more balanced. On a whole, this really was a very good show and is worth checking out for the hot crowd, hard work and fantastic main event. Grade: B+
MVP: Rock, Undertaker & Kurt Angle
Runner Up: Tazz & Michael Cole
Non MVP: Big Show
Runner Up: Chris Jericho