December 15, 2002
Office Depot Center
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Buy Rate: .65
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz
Sunday Night Heat
Jeff Hardy defeats D-Lo Brown (AC Connor) in 4:56
Pay Per View
1) Booker T (Booker Huffman) & Goldust (Dustin Runnels) defeat Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) & Christian (Jay Reso), Lance Storm (Lance Evers) & William Regal (Darren Matthews) and the Dudley Boys win World Tag Team Titles in an elimination match
Regal pins Bubby Ray Dudley (Ray Lomonica) after a top rope leg drop by Storm at 5:23
Goldust pins Regal with a powerbomb at 5:32
Booker T pins Jericho with the Book End at 16:43
Fun Fact: William Regal & Lance Storm had been on quite a roll and were really being pushed hard leading up to this show. JR even mentions that they were riding a six match win streak heading in.
Fun Fact II: One of the main plot points of this match was Goldust’s lack of confidence. He had been the reason his team had taken some losses and he started doubting himself, even claiming to be the weak link of the team. On the 12/9 Raw, Storm & Regal defeated Booker & Goldust and Goldust officially told Booker that he would best served to find a new partner for Armageddon. Booker did his best to get Goldust’s confidence back and ensured him he was no weak link and that he was his partner of choice. Lawler would spend most of the match harping on the weak link angle.
Scott: I remember really liking this match when the first couple of times I watched it. Then I watched it a third time recently, and I really noticed that it’s nothing overwhelming. They should have just had Jericho/Christian against Booker/Goldust. The other two teams were barely in the match, pretty much to spell the other two teams so they could roll for eleven minutes. Once they got to that, it was kind of boring. The crowd was not overly into it until Jericho attempted to cheat to win in the last couple of minutes. This was really the last chance for Goldie & The Book. They had already been shafted twice on PPV, so if they lost here, they might as well have broken up. So you almost went into the match thinking that the feud was going to end one way or another. Jericho tries to cheat a second time, but Booker T hits the Bookend and finally they’re Tag Team Champions. You’re happy for them, but at the same time the match was nothing special, and realistically it was going to end either way. Grade: 2
Justin: The opener of 2002’s final PPV features the official return of the Dudley Boys, and the crowd was hot for their return. The hot new heel team was Storm & Regal. Both men were in great shape and gelled quickly, playing well off each other’s strengths. The early portions saw basic tag work with simple strikes and moves. The What’s Up headbutt from the Dudleys would get a good pop, but their run in the match would be quick. Regal would roll up Bubba and eliminate him in a weak spot as it looked like Bubba kicked out at two. Regal would also go down weakly as Goldust quickly eliminates him right after. With those quick eliminations, I agree with Scott that this should have been a straight tag match. By having the other teams in there, they just managed to kill the heat of the Dudleys and Storm & Regal with lame eliminations. Goldust and Booker would battle as the crowd rallied them on and Lawler railed against Goldust on commentary, playing up the weak link storyline. After a long heat segment on Goldust, Booker came in and showed good fire, trading some great near falls with Jericho. Booker would finally finish of Jericho for the big win to cap off a long chase for the belts. They needed to pull the trigger as they almost waited too long to finally give them the belts. It was a nice feel good story as Goldust came through and Booker tells him so in a post match interview. We have new tag champions but there would be more tag team unrest in he weeks to come. Grade: 2
2) Edge (Adam Copeland) defeats A-Train (Matt Bloom) by disqualification at 7:12
Fun Fact: A-Train faced Rey Mysterio on the 12/5 Smackdown and lost by disqualification when he beat Rey’s leg with a steel chair. Rey’s partner Edge came out to help him on the stretcher and to the ambulance. Later in the night when Edge was coming to the ring for the Fatal Four Way #1 contender’s match against Angle, Benoit, and Guerrero, A-Train attacked him with a chair in the leg. Edge limped out anyway and fought valiantly but had to tap out to Angle’s Anklelock.
Fun Fact II: There were many rumors at the time that Matt Hardy was set to feud with Edge but that things were switched up at the last minute. Hardy was supposed to be the one to take out Rey and lay the groundwork for a future feud, but the creative team decided to use the feud to elevate A-Train instead.
Scott: Edge had an up and down 2002. It started with back-to-back losses to William Regal at the Rumble and No Way Out, then a win against Booker T at Wrestlemania. He follows that up with back to back stellar matches against Kurt Angle, then an awesome feud with Eddie Guerrero, enveloped into the battle for the WWE Tag Team Titles, and now it ends with a non-descript match against a big hoss. A-Train was a big dude, but was never known for bringing much to the table in terms of workrate. So this match in general was good, mostly because Edge is carrying the load. A-Train brings in a chair again and gets DQ’d, but then Edge gets in and beats the crap out of him with one chair shot after another. That was the highlight of the match, and it was after it ended. Otherwise it was basically to fill a spot on the card. I have a theory about what Edge’s 2003 was going to be like, but I’ll get into that in a couple of shows. Grade: 2
Justin: After being handed feuds and matches with the best pure wrestlers in the promotion for most of the year, Edge is forced into a match where he needs to step up and carry the load. A-Train was being pushed hard on commentary and you could tell they were lining him up for some big things. The match told a nice power story as Train just relentlessly clubbed on Edge. Edge would show good fire on his comebacks as he searched for a way to sneak out a win. I actually thought there was some good psychology in there as Edge had to use his wits to counter Train’s suffocating power. There would be one nice near fall on an Edge spear prior to the weak DQ finish. The finish would keep Train strong, but Edge also got his heat back, as well as some revenge for Rey, by pounding Train with a chair afterwards. Edge did a solid job here and his status as a major player on Smackdown is looking up as we head into 2003. Grade: 2
3) Chris Benoit defeats Eddie Guerrero with the Crossface at 16:47
Fun Fact: On the 12/9 Smackdown, Benoit and Guerrero joined Kurt Angle and Edge in a fatal four way match to determine the number one contender to challenge Big Show. Benoit had recently refocused himself on trying to capture the WWE Championship and his journey began with that match. Benoit would eliminate Guerrero 5:26 into the match, but Eddie would hang around ringside and cost Benoit the match when he hit him with his tag belt. They would be given a chance to get their aggressions out here.
Scott: We pick up the pace a bit with two of the Smackdown Six. Benoit had been cruising with one stellar match after another since coming back in June. Another guy Paul Heyman knew would bring the goods and was lucky to have on Smackdown. Not to be outdone, Eddie has also been on top of his game since being rehired. Imagine walking back from rehab and the Indy circuit only to be told “We’re starting you with Rob Van Dam”. No problem, says Latino Heat, and he puts on three stellar matches: two coming on PPV and a legendary ladder match on Raw. Also enveloped into the WWE Tag Team Title tournament, Eddie teamed with his nephew Chavo to put on more great ****-plus matches. This stems from Eddie smacking Benoit with a tag belt during the four way match on Smackdown to crown a #1 contender for Big Show’s WWE Title. This match as usual was stiff and fast from two men who don’t have any other speed. They hit their moves hard and in one spot Benoit went through the ropes so fast he got tangled in them and clotheslined himself with the top rope. Chavo interfered to help Uncle Eddie along, but Benoit slapped on the Crippler Crossface and after Eddie tried to roll out of it, he finally tapped out. Eddie would shake it off and move on, but for the Crippler it was a prelude to one of the greatest matches ever next month. Grade: 3.5
Justin: After toiling in a love/hate tag team relationship with Kurt Angle since the fall, Chris Benoit was starving for singles gold and he set his sights high. Tazz and Cole did their best to put over both competitors big time as both were set to be big players on Smackdown in 2003. With no titles on the line, these former best friends would war over pride. It was mat based to start and Eddie was garnering some great heat. Despite the personal heat he had, the fans just weren’t digging all the mat stuff and they started to get restless. Eddie would gain control and just pick Benoit apart with crisp precision offense. Tazz was awesome as always as he told the story of the match, only adding to the classic feel. The two men would batter each other with a crazy amount of German suplexes and as the bout wore on, it started to really feel like a legit fight. The stiff strikes and moves had a very real feel. Eddie would unleash a nasty frog splash but Benoit valiantly kicked out of that. Chavo would come out to help Eddie but Benoit would fight on and forge a good comeback. He fights off Chavo and would engage Eddie in a nice reversal battle as they each tried to lock in their submission finisher. Benoit would lock in the crossface and force Eddie to tap out in a hard fought war. This bout was another technical classic, and a lost classic to boot, and both men would stay red hot as the calendar changes over to 2003. Grade: 4
*** In one of the hottest segments in PPV history, Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson’s father Al Wilson come out to the ring to chat. Dawn shows parts of what happened in a hotel room between her and Torrie. Dawn told Torrie on the 12/12 Smackdown that she really didn’t want her father, she wanted her. So she told Torrie that if she spent the night with her, she’d call off the wedding. Of course other than some very hot and delicate kissing there wasn’t much to show. Besides the HLA, Tazz’s brutal trashing of Al was the highlight of the segment. ***
4) Batista (Dave Bautista) defeats Kane (Glen Jacobs) with the Demon Bomb at 6:38
Fun Fact: Our in ring debut tonight is a guy who started his wrestling career a little later than most. Dave Bautista came from an unusual household as a child, as his parents divorced because his mother came out as a lesbian. He lived with his mom and was living in hard times. He said in his book that three murders occurred on his lawn and by age thirteen he was stealing cars. After doing odd jobs like bouncing at bars and lifeguarding, Dave went to WCW’s Power Plant but was told by Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker that he’d never make it in the business. He would then sign with the WWF in 2000 and head immediately to Ohio Valley Wrestling. Dave had the name “Leviathan” and was in the Disciples of Synn faction. He would win the OVW Heavyweight Title and hold it for a while before losing to the Prototype John Cena. He would come to the WWE in 2002 and be given the “Deacon Bautista” gimmick with Reverend D-Von. When D-Von went to Raw and reunited with Bubba Ray, Batista was shipped to Raw and aligned with a new advisor: Ric Flair.
Scott: The debut of the Animal. The match is quite forgettable. Two power guys who sell, no-sell, sell, maybe sell. Kane is back in floating mode after his brief main event push on Raw ended. Batista, after being Reverend D-Von’s muscle, got a much better gig here. Being managed by the greatest wrestler alive is a wonderful upgrade. By the turn of the year he’s right at the forefront, along with another burgeoning talent, very quickly. Sure it would take a couple of years to get to the actual top, but Batista just had the look: Big, muscular, right up Vince’s alley. There’s really not much more to say about this match. Batista gets a big win, perhaps even an upset in some people’s minds. Grade: 1.5
Justin: After languishing as D-Von’s toady on Smackdown, Batista is repackaged and heads to Monday nights for a new lease on life. He is paired with Flair and built up as an unstoppable monster being guided by one of the smartest wrestlers in history. He and Kane would work a basic power match filled with simple strikes and slow pacing. Flair was active at ringside and was pretty funny as he laid into Kane to no positive result. Batista would botch a powerbomb attempt, which only added to the choppy flow of the match. Flair would save Batista a couple of times before Batista finally picked up the win. Both men worked hard but they just didn’t click this time around. I like the mix of Batista’s power and Flair’s smarts and the combination earned them a win. Grade: 1.5
*** John Cena and Bling-Bling Buchanan come out and cut a freestyle rap for the fans. On the Halloween episode of Smackdown, Cena dressed as Vanilla Ice for the party and wowed everyone with his cutting freestyles. Cena was known for his freestyle skills backstage and he was given a chance to carry that personality onto TV. The segment was successful and Cena was allowed to stick with the rapping gimmick. He would begin wearing throwback jerseys and started cutting scathing rap promos before his matches. He hooked up with the aimless Bull Buchanan and renamed him Bling-Bling. ***
5) Victoria (Lisa Marie Varon) defeats Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) and Jackie (Jacqueline Moore) in a Triple Threat match to retain Women’s Championship when she pins Jackie with a belt shot at 4:28
Fun Fact: On the 12/2 Raw, Victoria was caught going through Jackie’s bags backstage. Despite her win over Trish, Victoria’s jealousy was at an all time high and she was looking to eradicate all of the Divas on the roster. After Jackie caught her, they got into an argument and a match was made. Jackie would pick up the non title win in an upset. Victoria had also started up a relationship with Stevie Richards. Stevie would accompany Victoria to the ring and often aid her in matches and help her win.
Fun Fact II: Victoria debuts her new theme music here: “All the Things She Said” by t.a.T.u.
Scott: After last month’s brutal weapon-laden cat fight between the new champ and the former champ, this women’s match just comes off flat. Maybe it is because its one month after that great hardcore match, as Victoria really took it to Trish and vice versa. Also that match at Survivor Series was about eight minutes which is an eternity for a women’s match. Here we’re back to the standard 4 ½-5 minute affair and frankly it was pretty dull. Jacqueline is a capable wrestler, but frankly she seems a product of the Attitude Era and almost out of date. It was nothing offensive, in fact it seemed like a typically decent women’s match. Unfortunately it comes on the heels of that great match at Survivor Series, so it’s a letdown. Grade: 2
Justin: What a difference a year makes for Trish Stratus. A year ago, she was just starting to become a full time wrestler. Now, she is clearly more comfortable as an in ring performer and is slowly becoming the ring general of the women’s division. The match got off to a quick start with some nice work early and then tapered off a bit. Victoria would land a stiff superplex and then uses the belt on Jackie to steal the win. It was a short match, but a hard fought win as the three girls hammered on each other. The division is starting to take shape and is improving and I think having a heel champion dominating definitely helped the progression. Grade: 2
6) Kurt Angle defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) to win WWE Championship after a Brock Lesnar F5 at 12:36
Fun Fact: On the 12/5 Smackdown, Kurt Angle won a fatal four way match against Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Edge to become #1 contender and get the WWE Title shot against Big Show here. Show came out after the match and chokeslammed Angle. The following week on 12/12, Angle and Edge were facing Big Show and A-Train in a tag team match. Angle was about to put Show in the Anklelock, but Paul Heyman distracted him, and Show hit a chokeslam for the win.
Fun Fact II: On the 11/28 Smackdown, the injured Brock Lesnar was causing a ruckus backstage and he was tossing guys around. Before Heyman and Show were set to go cut a promo, Stephanie warned Brock not to lay a hand on either man or she would be forced to suspend him. During the promo, Heyman officially fired Brock as his client. After Show talked for a bit, Brock hopped through the crowd, grabbed a chair and came in swinging. After the attack, Stephanie gave Brock one more chance and another stern warning. Later that night, Show fought Edge and Lesnar again intervened, this time dropping Show with an F5. The next week, Stephanie finally suspended Brock for his own protection. He would be escorted from the arena by some cops, but would return later in the night and again F5 Show, this time through a table. Finally, on the 12/12 Smackdown, we saw footage of Brock at an autograph signing. Kurt Angle appeared in line and asked to speak with Brock about something. Kurt offered to get Brock’s suspension lifted if Brock would second him at Armageddon to help offset Heyman at ringside. He said they could then have the greatest match of all time after Angle won the belt. Brock said he would consider assisting if the suspension was lifted. Well, earlier in the night of the PPV, it was announced that Steph had lifted the suspension and the questions started flowing: would Brock help Kurt?
Fun Fact III: Around this time, word began to seep out that Angle was experiencing serious neck pain and may eventually need surgery to fix it. He would try to lay low over the next month, hoping the pain would subside.
Scott: This was a surprisingly good match for a few reasons. Kurt Angle had a solid, but unspectacular 2002 to this point. He had that weird feud and match with Kane at Wrestlemania, then the great feud with Edge, followed by officially becoming part of the Smackdown Six and Paul Heyman just had him in one awesome match after another with Chris Benoit, either as a partner or as an opponent. Now he gets his first title shot since losing the triple threat at Vengeance to the Rock. Big Show really hadn’t sniffed any kind of a title shot since losing to Triple H at the start of 2000. He had been in weird feuds, off TV, back on TV, all over the place, so it was kind of a shock at Survivor Series when Big Show actually pinned the undefeated Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. It was as shocking as his last win in 1999. Lesnar had legitimate rib injuries from his match with Undertaker at No Mercy, thus his match with Big Show was only four minutes and he’s not wrestling at this show until he comes out to help Kurt Angle, who got Lesnar’s suspension lifted. He F5’s the mountainous Big Show, and Angle wins the WWE Title for the third time. Lesnar & Angle’s relationship would change over time, and the Big Show quickly shifts to another feud. The match is pretty good, and the year ends with Kurt Angle on top of…well Smackdown’s world. Grade: 3
Justin: After spending the whole year on the heel side of the fence, Angle quickly becomes a crowd favorite as he buddies up with Brock Lesnar to battle Heyman and Show. Show would use his power early but Angle would counter with quickness. Show was focused and aggressive here and Tazz would point that out as well, crediting Heyman’s direction for the improvement. Kurt would sell nicely for Show’s power offense and the two kept a fluid pace and put on an aggressive match. Once Kurt got back on offense, he would pull out all the stops, including an unusual aerial assault. He would pick up a super close near fall after an Angle Slam. They would transition into a neat little battle over the Anklelock and the crowd really started rocking. Angle would sneak in a chair shot for another good near fall. A-Train would then come out to help Show as they had formed a relationship in the weeks leading up to the show. Lesnar would then appear to even the odds and his F5 on Show sent the crowd into a frenzy. Brock would chase off Heyman and Angle would cover Show to pick up the title. The match was surprisingly well worked as Angle played into Show’s strengths and bounced around for him in between mixing in some aerial offense. Angle is now the torch bearer on Smackdown, but the deck would be shuffled again after this show as the face/heel alignments are switched up. Grade: 3
7) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) in a Three Stages of Hell match to win World Heavyweight Championship
Triple H pins Michaels in a street fight with the Pedigree at 20:33
Michaels pins Triple H in a steel cage match with a splash through a table at 29:45
Triple H wins a ladder match when he climbs the ladder and retrieves the title at 35:25
Fun Fact: Triple H won this title shot on the 12/2 Raw by defeating Rob Van Dam in a #1 contenders match with “help” from special referee Shawn Michaels. The week before Michaels was defending the World Title against RVD, which he won thanks to “help” by Triple H. On the 12/9 Raw, GM Eric Bischoff announced that the World Heavyweight Championship match at Armageddon would be a Three Stages of Hell match. The first fall would be a street fight, the second would be in a steel cage, and the third would be a ladder match. The blood feud continued that night when Michaels attacked Triple H and Ric Flair with an iron shovel outside the arena. He then smashed Triple H in the head with a trash can, which led Triple H to fall into a dumpster. Michaels then climbed to the top of a trailer and splashed on top of a prone Triple H in the dumpster.
Scott: Our main event continues to be the hottest feud on either brand right now. Since their falling out the night after Vengeance, the Showstopper and the Game have gone at each other with all their might. After a five star classic at Summerslam, Michaels took a couple of months off to sell the sledgehammer shot from Triple H. He comes back and stuns the world by winning the World Title in the Elimination Chamber at Survivor Series. It was very strange to see him walk up the ramp with the gold belt around his waist. For a guy who was the face of the WWF during the early stages of the Monday Night Wars, seeing him wear WCW’s belt is really freaky. I really like this match, not as much as their Summerslam encounter but it was still very entertaining. The first fall was not as violent as five months earlier but there were some great visuals, such as Triple H lighting the barbed wire 2×4 on fire. It was still brutal but maybe a notch or two below the violence factor of Summerslam. The cage and ladder match falls were excellent, as both men not only wanted to be champion, but also wanted to eliminate the other from existence. When Ric Flair was stacking the tables up outside the ring, which was for Triple H to walk over the cage, and down the tables like a stepladder (great logic there), you knew that someone was going to go through them at some point. Alas when HBK was literally a pinky finger away from retaining his title, in came Triple H to push the ladder and Shawn fell right through the table fort. It was one of the first clips of the “Don’t Try This At Home” PSA for almost five years. Triple H finally gets his win back on Shawn after losing two big matches in four months. These two will separate for a while, as Shawn Michaels will now match up with guys that we wouldn’t have ever thought he would face when he left in 1998. Triple H will embark on a Ric Flair-type year of title dominance; however it will be marked with controversy and sub-par performances. Grade: 4
Justin: Shawn Michaels’ entrance here officially marked the return of the Showstopper to PPV. He had the look, arrogance and swagger back as he struts down the aisle with the belt around his waist. Flair gets tossed before the match even starts and these two are left to go at it one on one. Things are a bit slow to start as they take some time setting up various spots. Hunter would focus on working the back and knee of Michaels throughout the bout. While the street fight fall was solid, they would have a hard time living up to the standard they set at Summerslam and I thought it took a little away from the match here. I think they should have done a straight match in the first fall as they hadn’t done one at all yet. They would brawl down the aisle to the set and that is where we get the neat visual of Hunter wielding a flaming barbed wire 2×4. Shawn would avoid it, steal it and lay in some shots on Hunter. Hunter would blade there but would fight back and pick up the first fall with the Pedigree. As the cage lowered, Hunter scampered around the ring and tossed a whole mess of weapons into the ring. He would eventually bust Shawn open as well, grating his face across the cage repeatedly. Flair would then make his return and started setting up the table pyramid on the floor. Flair would eventually find his way into the cage but Shawn would end up beating him from pillar to post. After destroying Flair, he would put Hunter through a table and pick up the second stiff fall. Flair would be carried off and we were back to a one on one matchup. One of the nastiest spots in the third fall came when Michaels suplexed Hunter on the ladder. After a few more minutes of brawling, Michaels would get knocked off the ladder and through the stack of tables. Hunter would unhook the belt and regain his championship. The crowd was into it for the most part but it was a bit too long. After three wars against each other, these two take some time apart and move onto other challengers. The match as a whole was a solid brawl with some nice spots mixed in, but it felt like they were trying for an epic and came up short of that goal. Grade: 3.5
Scott: 2002’s final PPV was an up and down affair. We had some more stellar performances from members of the Smackdown Six and two top-notch main event championship matches. Unfortunately a good portion of the undercard was bogged down with boring matches and a long segment with the bane of everyone’s existence: Al Wilson. As much as Torrie and Dawn Marie are smoking hot and their hotel tryst was making males’ blood boil, Al Wilson may be one of the worst actors WWE ever put on the screen. The segment dragged on too long and the crowd was left empty. Batista makes a big splash with an upset win over Kane but the match was less than stellar. Booker T and Goldust get the big title win everybody wanted, but even that came off flat on screen. Overall the show was good based on the grades, but it just didn’t feel like a show that had three matches over three stars, including both of the brand’s championships changing hands for the second straight month. 2002 has ended, and the WWE landscape looks much different than it did when the year started. This next year will have its share of big highs, and stunning lows. Final Grade: C+
Justin: This was an interesting show. It was one that was fun to watch, but when you step back and look at the grades you realize the show as a whole was quite underwhelming. The Booker & Goldust win was a nice moment but it felt like it came about a month too late. Edge gets a chance to step up and deliver but could only pull a mediocre match out of A-Train. Benoit and Guerrero tore the house down as usual, but they were struggling in front of a flat crowd. The rest of the undercard was middling, nothing great and nothing bad. The two main events delivered really good matches, but neither was enough to really carry the show. 2002 has been an interesting year and so much has happened over the last twelve months. Steve Austin and Rock are gone, Hulk Hogan and Scott Hall came and went, the brands officially split and a new heavyweight championship was created. Triple H is back to being a heel, Undertaker is a face and Kurt Angle is a tweener. Brock Lesnar and Rey Mysterio exploded onto the scene and delivered high quality matches immediately. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero made their returns and dominated while Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam had an up and down year. While Booker T. looked to be the breakout star early on, Edge ended up surpassing him with a killer year. Then you have the rest of the middle of the pack, just spinning their wheels and floating from feud to feud, some big and some small: Kane, William Regal, Christian, Lance Storm, Big Show, the Dudleys and the Hardys. Finally, we had some young stars like John Cena, Batista, Three Minute Warning and Randy Orton come up and begin to slowly make their mark and make their claim to take over the next generation of WWE. It was truly a transitional year, and we will soon find out if we were transitioning up to higher peaks or dipping into low valleys. As a whole, this show is just as perplexing as the rest of the year. Despite the couple of gems, this show was the definition of average. Final Grade: C
MVP: Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero
Runner Up: Shawn Michaels & Triple H
Non MVP: Kane
Runner Up: Lance Storm, William Regal & the Dudleys