Written By: Hayden Stojkovic
JR and The King welcome us to the show like only they can, before we are joined by ‘The Nature Boy’ himself, Ric Flair. He makes his way to the ring and starts off by putting over Dallas’ wrestling history, before touching on his history in Dallas, including a match in 1984 when he went to Texas Stadium and wrestled Kerry Von Erich (hey, maybe I’ll review that one day). Blatant pandering to the fans here to begin but he’s Flair and he’s good at it so it works. Flair admits that he’s been humbled recently by Vince McMahon, before showing clips of being beaten down last week on Raw, and Vince’s epic promo on Smackdown. Flair goes on to talk about Vince and abusing his power, even calling him a “no good son of a bitch”, before he admits that he’s going to abuse some of his own power. How? By making their match at the Royal Rumble a Street Fight, which is honestly a good decision for anytime a McMahon it trying to wrestle. Getting all fired up, Flair then goes into epic Flair mode, beating up the microphone with elbow drops and knee drops, begging Vince to come fight now. In what really feels like a surprise, instead of Vince McMahon, the WWF Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho makes his way to the ring instead. Jericho teases Flair a little about expecting somebody else before delivering an epic line of truth, “there used to be a time in this company when it revolved around one man, and one man only, and that sure as hell wasn’t the owner, it was the champion”. Thought this was an awesome line because it kind of fits in with my philosophy. Jericho accuses Flair of only getting into a match to try and outdo him and show he’s still got it. Then Jericho goes one further and says Flair will do the same thing as a man with a lot of power, he’ll choke like George W. Bush at the Rumble. Well, that did it. Plenty of heat from the fans and as Jericho drops his mic, Flair has finally had enough and attacks with punches, chops, and a low blow, before applying the Figure Four. The fans are loving it until Vinnie Mac makes his way out and hits Flair in the back of the head with the same lead pipe from last week. I get that he’s Flair and the fans loved it, but it bothers me that our World Champion is being beaten down by one co-owner and forced to be saved by the other one. Keep in mind, both of these guys at this time are non-wrestlers. Vince apologizes to Jericho and slaps Flair, and then Jericho holds Flair up, so McMahon can give him a shot to the gut with the pipe. The Flair/McMahon hype has been fine for awhile now and I guess this still accomplished more for that, but the idea of sacrificing your champion in this spot for no reason doesn’t work for me. I’m sure this will be the first of many qualms regarding Jericho’s booking as champion.
Chris Jericho is greeted in the back by Christian and Lance Storm, and they pretty pumped with his Bush/Texas insults, congratulating him on a job well done. The American patriot himself, Bradshaw appears and yells at them for bad mouthing his home state and the President of the USA. Bradshaw then challenges the three of them to a match tonight, saying that he’ll find some partners. After Bradshaw leaves, Christian says they don’t need to worry because Bradshaw doesn’t have any friends, which I thought was pretty funny.
We then get a “during the break” video which shows Vince McMahon getting in his limo and hurrying away from the arena, clearly not wanting any of Flair.
Bubba Ray Dudley w/D’Von Dudley and Stacy Keibler vs. Spike Dudley w/Tazz
Honestly, not much to say about this one. Extremely short and very uneventful. Bubba threw Spike around and beat him down for a little while, which was probably the highlight of the match. Eventually Spike manages to get in position to hit a Dudley Dog, but Bubba gets out of it. Stacy decides to provide a distraction on the apron, and with the ref preoccupied, The Dudleyz looks for their “WAASSSSSSUUUP” headbutt from the top rope. Tazz knocked D’Von off the top before he could jump off, and Spike turns Bubba into a Victory Roll for the flash pin victory. *
We now head to the parking lot where a limo pulls up and out steps Stephanie McMahon Helmsley and Triple H. Stephanie is furious at the limo driver, yelling at the driver for making them late to the arena. Stephanie is so frustrated that she wants Triple H to beat up the bell clerk, but Hunter doesn’t want a bar of it. He tells her to “go take a walk or something” to calm down, before admitting he will kick somebody’s ass tonight, but it won’t be the bell clerk. A short, harmless segment which begins to put over the difference in personality between these two effectively.
Now we get some Billy and Chuck mic time before their upcoming match. Apparently on Sunday Night Heat, they were attempting to double team Tajiri when The Hurricane made a save and ruined their attempt. Billy says that they were so upset that they had to cancel their double date with two hot chicks over what happened. They then talk about how they aren’t sure what Hurricane’s deal is, and if anybody should be superheroes, it’s them because of their amazing bodies. The Hurricane and Tajiri then make their way out where The Hurricane so elegantly states “these two with hot chicks? WHASSSUPWITHDAT”? He then tells them that the only superhero they resemble is the Human Torch. Erm, it’s 2002 folks.
Billy and Chuck vs. Tajiri and The Hurricane w/Mighty Molly and Torrie Wilson
I thought the action itself acceptable for what it was, but they weren’t really given time to do anything, which I guess isn’t that much of a surprise in this time period. Whilst I say acceptable, I’ll still mark it pretty harshly because I think it could have been much better. Billy and Chuck attacked them to start off, annoyed with the war of words, and started off an isolation period on The Hurricane. It obviously didn’t last long and once Tajiri got in, he did what he always does and made things fun with all of his kicks. All hell broke loose and Tajiri continues to dominate, getting Chuck in the Tarantula, but he lets go, to attack Billy for dropping The Hurricane. He does so effectively but then Tajiri turns back into a Superkick from Chuck, and that’s enough for the win. *1/2
We then see a clip of The Undertaker riding into the parking lot, apparently arriving incredibly late to the show.
In the back, we have Michael Cole interviewing an annoyed Kurt Angle, who isn’t happy with how things went down on Smackdown in his match with Stone Cold. Even though it ended in a No Contest due to Kane’s interference, the feeling is that Austin had Angle beat after nailing the Stunner. Kurt disagrees, saying he had Austin right where he wanted him and “Kane stuck his stupid burned nose where it didn’t belong”. Kurt shows no signs of fear from Kane, and even quotes Shakira, saying if he wants a piece of him, “wherever, whenever”. Angle states that in their match tonight, he’s going to make an example out of Kane. Angle hilariously says that Kane almost won last year’s Rumble, but he has a gold medal and Kane doesn’t because “being a big freak isn’t an Olympic sport”. Angle finished off by saying he’s going to break Kane’s ankle and it’s hard to eliminate 29 other guys with a broken ankle. Awesome promo. I love Kurt.
In the backstage area, Debra and Stephanie McMahon Helmsley have a confrontation. They trade barbs over each other’s husband kicking the other’s ass and eliminating the other from the Rumble before they start brawling i.e., Trading hair pulls and slaps. The best part of this is easily Harvey Whippleman trying to get Debra to calm down and she just slaps him. Whilst these sorts of catty women’s segments don’t usually do much for me, I actually think this is pretty effective in terms of subtle Triple H/Austin tension.
Well, it looks like we are getting the WWF Women’s Champion Trish Stratus out to do some commentary because up next is the number one contender’s match for the Women’s Title.
Number One Contender’s Match
Jackie vs. Jazz
This match run time ran just over a minute so I’m not even sure why Trish was on commentary. Don’t think she would have been adding a lot of insight here. Anyway, onto the action, well, it’s a squash. Jackie does land some offense, but I don’t think anybody is every questioning the result. In a kind of bad ass move, Jazz got dropped with a Clothesline, only to immediately nail Jackie with one, and then it’s the Fisherman Buster for the three count. SQUASH
After the match, Jazz and Trish share some words (I guess that’s why she was out there), and they try and brawl, but they get separated. Keynote: I’m sure Jerry Lawler loved every moment of restraining Trish.
Kane vs. Kurt Angle
I felt like both men put on a decent performance here. It seemed like a good night for Kane, and Kurt’s bumping for Kane’s moves was terrific throughout. Kane dominates with some basic punches in the early stages and then Angle uses the heelish tactic of rolling outside for a breather. It backfires though with Kane dominating on the outside as well, sending Angle chest first into the crowd barricade. From here, it’s just more of the same back inside of the ring, with Kane landing a bunch of power moves, including a Power Slam and a Sidewalk Slam. However, when Kane goes to the top rope, Kurt incredible leaps up to the top rope and hits a Belly-to-Belly Suplex off the top. Awesome spot, and potentially the first time I can remember seeing it (please keep in mind I haven’t watched 2001 in forever so I could be missing something). Big time spot though, although I do find it weird that he’d bust it out during a TV match. I’m a firm believer in there being a difference between TV vs. PPV matches, and this one feels like a PPV spot. Still, awesome to see it though and to hear the crowd reaction. Some nice Ankle Lock teases come after this, with Angle going for it, but Kane showing some nice athleticism and landing an Enziguri. They then have a nice period where Kane attempts the Tombstone and Chokeslam, but Angle gets out of both, reversing the latter into a takedown and transitioning into the Ankle Lock. Kane looks terrific by getting to the ropes and then Angle loses his shit after getting a near fall from an Angle Slam. Kane sits up and in what is a pretty awesome spot, Kane looks for the Chokeslam, but Kurt pulls the ref in front of him as Kane gets the Goozle, but Kane just Chokeslams both of them at the same time. With the ref down, there’s no pinfall but Kane locks in the Ankle Lock and Angle taps. Eventually, Kane tries to wake up the ref and locks in the Ankle Lock again, but this time Kurt gets a Roll Up and holds the ropes for the win. A solid showing, I thought and one of Kane’s better recent performances. **1/2
In the backstage area, Stephanie McMahon Helmsley and Triple H are together, and Stephanie is ranting about her earlier confrontation with Debra. After clearly getting a headache, Triple H yells over the top of her, telling her enough is enough. He tells her that these are distractions that he doesn’t need. Trying to get him on side, Steph tells Hunter that Debra said Austin is going to kick Triple H’s ass at the Rumble. Triple H rebuts by saying that he’s kicked Austin’s ass in the past, and he can do it again. I liked this. The Triple H/Austin stuff continues to be a fun build to the Rumble, and I don’t mind the idea of Triple H/Steph being a slow burn at this point. There are hints of dissention but would be a little crazy if they just broke up right away because Hunter is a ‘good guy’ now.
We now head to The APA’s office, which is epic, and drinking and playing poker are Bradshaw, Faarooq and The Big Show. The best is that because their office is just a door, Booker kind of just walks through the background and Bradshaw scalds him for it. “This isn’t a damn barn, use the front door”. Got a chuckle out of me. Booker T says he’s looking for the trainer’s room, but Faarooq says he needs to find a barber. The Big Show then chimes in with his own gem, stating that “we were talking about kicking ass, but with Rikishi, Booker T was licking a lot of ass”. A furious Booker T then challenges Show to a match, and they have some back and forth until Show chases Booker away. Bradshaw does mention to Faarooq that this gives him an idea for a partner tonight though. Harmless fun I guess, but I think I made it clear last show that I don’t like this booking for Booker T.
Edge and Rob Van Dam vs. Test and William Regal
Somewhat fun but another one of those ones that’s just hurt by the lack of time so I can’t give it a good rating. I feel like this might be something that I sound like a broken record about for a little while. A pretty fun, somewhat out of the box start though, with Regal being checked by the referee for brass knucks, leading to Test coming through the crowd and getting a jump on the opponents. As that happens, Regal gets the brass knuckles out from under the ring and stashes them. Van Dam starts off on fire, but a Full Nelson Slam from Test turns him into the face in peril. As usual in this position, Van Dam does a rather good job. It’s a pretty basic period of domination really but RVD’s selling is on point, before he fights out of a Chinlock, nails Test with a Heel Kick and makes the hot tag. To his credit, Edge comes off and plays a fairly good hot tag role as well. Edge goes to town on both opponents, before getting an Edge O Matic on Regal for a two count. As things progress, Van Dam lands his flying Sidekick on Test, but then gets hit with the brass knucks by Regal. Meanwhile, Edge nails Test with the Edgeacution, but then falls victim to a brass knucks shot as well. With all hell breaking loose, the ref didn’t see any illegal stuff and makes the three count. *3/4
One half of tonight’s main event, Chris Jericho, Christian and Lance Storm are in the back and Christian seems worried that Bradshaw might have some sort of plan. The arrogant Jericho says that he doesn’t care because he beat The Rock and Stone Cold in the same night. LOL. On the monitor, they then see The APA chatting to Rikishi and they aren’t happy. Rikishi is their partner? I have multiple issues with this. The Rock, the number one contender for Jericho’s title at the Rumble isn’t even on this show. Surely this should have been his spot. This isn’t 2000 anymore, I’ve no interest in Rikishi being in weekly show main events, especially when storyline wise, he doesn’t logically fit in there.
Booker T vs. The Big Show
Booker tries to get the jump, attacking Show as he enters the ring, but that sequence just leads to Booker T eventually running into a Powerslam. Show is able to nail a Sidewalk Slam as well, and Booker doesn’t really do anything, until he’s able to low bridge Show to the outside. On the outside, Booker goes to work, before they get back inside, and he is able to nail the Scissor Kick but Show kicks out. I probably should have mentioned a turnbuckle was exposed earlier, and after sending Booker into the corner, Show charges in but Booker kicks him in the knee, and Show goes face first into the corner. The Big Show is unconscious after that and it’s all she wrote. Short and still not particularly good. *
The highlight of the match was easily the Spinaroonie afterwards, but at this point I’m just happy for Booker to somewhat rebound after the terrible Smackdown escapades.
Next up, Michael Cole is in the back, ready to conduct an interview with Stone Cold. This promo from Austin might not be for everybody because there’s a lot of rambling and a lot of “WHAT” baiting, but I loved it. First, he starts by telling the story of a man who came to a bar in Dallas to drink beer, of course with “WHAT” happening, and he describes all the different ways he rode the mechanical bull. He talks about throwing everybody out of the bar to prep for the Rumble. He gets a little more serious when he talks about Triple H, and all the things he’s done/will do in his life, but he won’t eliminate Austin from the Rumble. He then says that by drinking beer, he’s actually working on his strategy, because his beer belly lowers his centre of gravity so it’s harder to be thrown over the top. That’s some amazing stuff right there. He then finishes with the bottom line is that Austin is winning the Rumble, because Stone Cold said so. Another one of these not to serious promos I’d recommend to go watch, because I enjoyed it.
Chris Jericho, Christian and Lance Storm vs. Rikishi and The APA
I’m not all that enthusiastic about this one but let’s see how it goes. They’re all out fast and it’s a brawl to start things off. The Kish dominates the Undisputed Champion, nailing a Samoan Drop, and he sets up for the Stinkface, but Jericho manages to escape to the outside before ass can meet face. Storm tries to come from behind and attack Rikishi, and probably distract him, but when Jericho gets back in, he still gets owned with a Belly To Belly Suplex. The rest of the match just kind of happens, with not much to note, which probably paints an idea of the rating it’s going to get. In the end, Faarooq gets tagged in and goes to town with his awesome Spinebusters. It breaks out into an all-in brawl and as everything happens, Jericho manages to nail Faarooq with a Breakdown for the three count. *
Before he makes his way to the ring, Triple H tells Stephanie that he wants to go out alone. Judging by the look on her face, she isn’t impressed, which is some more subtle advancement with their issues.
Triple H comes out now and admittedly he gets another HUGE reaction from the crowd. He recaps his return last week and everything he has been through, and of course, the annoying fans “WHAT” chant at him the entire time. I really liked the part of the promo where Hunter references JR saying on commentary that the comeback was complete. He disagrees, because he didn’t come back and go through all that pain to just be another guy, he came back to win the Rumble, go to WrestleMania, and become the WWF Undisputed Champion. I actually thought he got his passion across nicely here and cut a pretty good promo. As he goes into a little bit more detail about the Rumble, he’s interrupted by Stone Cold. As Austin tries to make his way to the corner to pose for the fans, they use the cool spot where Triple H gets in his way. This leads to them jaw jacking at each other and the brawl is on. They both tease hitting each other with their finisher, until The Undertaker comes from nowhere and hits Triple H from ringside with the chair. This causes Hunter to stagger into a Stunner, but then, ‘Taker nails Austin with a chair shot as well. The Undertaker is the last man standing as we head towards the Rumble. I enjoyed this, thought it did what it needed to in terms of hype for the Rumble.
The wrestling on this show wasn’t all that great, but I still think it did what it needed to for a go home show for the PPV… Outside of the lack of The Rock which is pretty silly and inexcusable. Oh well. Still, I’ll give this one a tick based on what it did for the bigger picture.
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