Written By: Hayden Stojkovic
WWF Tag Team Championship Match
Spike Dudley and Tazz (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz w/Stacy Keibler
A short and sharp PPV opener for the year 2002 with the match only going about five minutes or so, but it worked for what it was. As a matter of fact, considering the chemistry these two teams have already proven to have throughout this year, it’s no surprise to me that this is fun to watch. They play off the angle on Smackdown with The Dudleyz giving Spike as 3D in the parking lot, as Spike even comes to the ring wearing a neck brace. The Dudleyz take care of Tazz early, removing him from the equation so that they can isolate Spike. As with pretty much every match they have had so far, The Dudleyz throwing Spike around and pummelling him is fun to watch, and Spike bumps around for them like a lunatic. A hot opener in terms of crowd reaction, as they marked out when Spike was able to make the hot tag to Tazz. I honestly feel like Spike and Tazz are the perfect team with Spike only good at getting his ass kicked, and Tazz one of the better ass kickers. Tazz comes in off the hot tag and starts hurling around both Dudleyz with Suplexes. As with nearly every WWE tag team match ever, all four men end up in the ring for the finish, with Spike nailing Bubba with a Dudley Dog, whilst the crowd go insane as Tazz forces D’Von to submit to the Tazzmission. Short, fun, and this certainly did its job of getting the crowd into the show. **1/4
In the backstage area, and he cuts a really good promo, as he seems to have taken to this more serious character he’s started to portray. Edge mentions that Regal likes to talk a big game, and they could have a hell of fight if they wanted to, but instead, Regal likes to play dirty (clearly referring to the constant use of brass knucks). Suddenly, Edge shows a steel chair, with some good fire in his eyes, as he talks about how it was a chair like the one he’s holding that broke Regal’s nose. Outside of the IC Title, the broken nose has been Regal’s main motivation for coming at Edge. Edge talks up his ability at using a steel chair, before coming back with a nice line to rebut Regal’s cool devil promo in the build-up. “Regal talks about gambling with the devil, but tonight, the devil gets burnt”. In my opinion, at this point in time, Edge hadn’t really done much good, serious stuff, so this was a nice change of pace.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Edge (c) vs. William Regal
As what’s becoming the norm, the referee pats down Regal before the match, and on this occasion, the referee manages to find the brass knucks and take them away from Regal. This felt like a nice moment considering how often Regal has used the brass knucks recently. I really thought this was a good match, with the stiff nature of it probably no surprise because Regal was involved, but I thought Edge really stepped up and held his own in that department as well. A pretty standard formulaic approach with Regal using his epic offense to ground Edge, only for Edge to make a comeback. If I remember accurately, I felt like the two felt more familiar with each other here, and I think they delivered a better match here than last month at Vengeance. Regal gets a nosebleed during the match, which probably wasn’t intention, but it works perfectly considering the broken nose angle. I would have probably liked Regal to maybe be a little more angered by that or reference it a little more once it started to bleed. Edge hit a pretty cool apron DDT as well, which I can’t recall seeing in the WWF previously. In the end, in a nice twist after the referee had confiscated the knucks, Regal had another pair stashed in the ring apron. He grabs them, before eventually pulling the referee in front of a Spear attempt from Edge. With the referee down, Regal lands the Power of The Punch and the ref slowly makes the cover. We’ve got a new IC Champ, folks, and it was a good match that got us there. ***
After the match, Michael Cole interviews William Regal regarding his suspicious victory, but Regal thanks the god above because he has been blessed with the power of the punch. Awesome stuff from Regal here, and I’m excited to have him as champ.
WWF Women’s Championship
Special Referee: Jackie
Trish Stratus (c) vs. Jazz
Considering what she’s go on to achieve, it’s really difficult to put into perspective how fresh Trish was as a wrestler here. I’d argue that whilst this is still far from good, this is probably her first singles match that wasn’t downright terrible. If you want to see what terrible looks like, go watch her title match against Jackie at Vengeance. Again though, speaking for the era that we are in, this is probably classified as good for a women’s match. One thing that’s noticeable is Trish has clearly improved in terms of taking a bump and selling, which is good because Jazz spends a majority of the match beating her up. A clear focal point helps them as well, as Jazz works on the broken hand of Trish, which makes perfect sense. I’m not that big on Jackie being involved here but I guess she’s the most recent title challenger, and she’s had some issues with Jazz in the last few weeks. Anyway, we get to a point where Jazz and Jackie share some not to friendly words, and this allows Trish to get back into the match and get the win with the Stratusfaction. Good for this time period, but not good overall. *1/4
We see clips from Sunday Night Heat where Ric Flair brought his family into the building. Coming back to current time, we see that they are now at ringside ahead of tonight’s big match, which is the perfect thing to do considering some of the stuff Vince McMahon said about Flair’s family in the build-up.
Of course, this match gets the high stakes video package treatment as well.
Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon
This one was a bit of a tale of two matches for me. Firstly, it’s awesome to see Flair back in action again, knowing his history and how he was feeling at the time. I don’t want to sound to critical because honestly, Vince probably doesn’t get enough credit for the way he puts himself out there and does this sort of thing. Not many rich folks who’d be willing to go out and bust themselves open and put themselves through hell without needing to. As you can imagine though, the early stages with Vince dominating due to his power advantage were pretty awful. A bunch of random brawling, but it’s clear that Vinnie Mac doesn’t really know how to structure a match. Luckily, it wasn’t to long before McMahon got the weapons involved. This turned the match into something more interesting, and it allowed Flair to cut one of his awesome blade jobs. That image of blood-stained peroxide hair is still one of my all-time favourites in wrestling. The bit with McMahon dragging a bloody Flair towards his family and taking a picture with Flair’s daughters’ camera is amazing. The weapon use and the drama filled moments like this are cleverly inserted to cover for the fact that Vince isn’t an active wrestler. After Vince’s second half of his heat period is finished (which was the fun part), things pick up again when Flair takes over. He’s awesome at just beating the piss out of Vince, it’s brutal to watch at times, but Flair’s mannerisms just make everything so full of hate. Of course, they runback the camera moment, with a beaten-up Vince now getting photographed as well which was a nice callback. The ending is smart to, with Flair nailing Vince with a lead pipe to get revenge for all the lead pipes attack he’s been on the end of. It’s all she wrote after that, with the Figure Four finishing things off. I was concerned early but once the weapons got involved and this felt full of such intense hatred, this was good. ***1/4
In the backstage area, Stephanie McMahon Helmsley is yet again running her mouth, talking about how Triple H is going to kick everybody’s ass tonight. Being catty and all, she makes fun of Debra as well, until Stone Cold appears and yells “WHAT” at Steph a bunch of times to make her leave. He then cuts a generic Rumble hype promo, with all the “WHAT” chants in there from the fans as well. Probably the first time since I started watching 2002 where the “WHAT” chants are starting to feel a little old.
WWF Undisputed Championship Match
Chris Jericho (c) vs. The Rock
These two have had quite the feud going, dating back to probably October 2001 if I remember correctly, and I recall enjoying their series of matches together. I’m probably going to trash on the booking of this one quite a bit, so let me just premise that by saying these two have an amazing chemistry together. That’s clear as day, however this is probably the worst match of the series for mine, because whilst technically it’s done well, the booking is atrocious for Jericho. He’s the World Champ, presumably heading into WrestleMania, and the whole angle has been about him being determined to get people to take him seriously, but I don’t think that happened here. If they want him to be that heel champ who always escaped by the skin of his teeth, I can live with that as well, but this was to far over the top for me. The match started off really well, with Jericho putting in some good work on The Rock, whilst adding in those awesome, disrespectful Jericho trademarks (slaps, just general trash talking). I truly believe The Rock was one of the best sellers in the game in 02 as well, and he’s selling, and comeback teases were all hot as hell. My first issue is that Jericho lands two Lionsaults, which is supposed to be one of his finisher’s, randomly in the middle of the match and The Rock kicks out. Not sure why two are needed and not sure why it’s needed as a spot in the middle of the match. As The Rock looks to take some control, we get interference from Christian and Lance Storm, allowing Jericho to get another near fall off of a Rock Bottom. After all of that resilience by The Rock, he has Jericho down for longer than a three count after a damn DDT, only for Nick Patrick to refuse to make the count. I should probably commend Jericho for the Rock Bottom through the table spot he took, that was epic. After a People’s Elbow, Rock gets ANOTHER visual pin, but there’s no ref to make the count. Jericho then manages to sneak a low blow, send Rocky into an exposed turnbuckle, and get a roll up with his feet on the ropes to pick up the win. I still enjoyed this, I did, and it had the potential of being a **** to ****1/2 match for me, but the booking of Jericho brings it down. This was TO MUCH. ***3/4
Of course, we then get a Royal Rumble video package because that’s really what everybody is here for.
Knowing what’s to come later in the year, I got pretty excited by the Shawn Michaels appearance here. No, he’s not at the event itself, but he’s at WWF New York, and he’s asked for his prediction on who he thinks will win the Rumble. He says that either Stone Cold or The Undertaker will win.
I’m not the biggest Royal Rumble guy. I enjoy the concept and the mystery, and I make sure to watch every year (even to this day), but there’s usually a big lull in portions of the match which make it hard to get through. That sort of happened in the beginning here for mine, with the only interesting thing happening until The Undertaker comes in at #8 being Goldust’s return. I’m a Dustin Rhodes guy though, and he looked good in here, until being Chokeslammed over the top rope by The Undertaker. ‘Taker’s bit is so fun here, as he beats the hell out of and eliminates everybody, including Rikishi until we get probably our second big moment, which is Matt Hardy coming out with Lita. They’re back together and all that stuff that happened last year clearly doesn’t matter. Jeff Hardy would be the next entrant, signalling a Hardyz reunion, which is a nice moment, and they also have some nice offense on ‘Taker, until he eliminates them. Next up is Maven for one of the most famous Rumble moments for mine. The Hardy’s distract ‘Taker which allows the Tough Enough Winner to Dropkick ‘Taker in the back, eliminating him. The Undertaker’s facial expressions here and the brutality of the beat down on Maven are epic. Ending with ramming through the popcorn machine glass was crazy as well. It kind of slowed down for a longish portion again here. The Godfather made his return and Val Venis is back to his old porn star gimmick, but they didn’t add much to the match. The next excitement pick up is at entrant #19, which is a fair distance away, when Stone Cold enters the Rumble. Austin clears the ring, which is plenty of fun and not long after, Triple H is out at #22. Why does Triple H have to absolutely milk everything? He wastes the entire two minutes getting to the ring, meaning before they can really get it on, they are interrupted by The Hurricane. This created the epic moment where The Hurricane hilariously tries to Chokeslam them both. He fails and gets eliminated. The ending feels pretty fun with Austin and Triple H being accompanied by Mr, Perfect (YES), Kurt Angle, The Big Show, Kane, Rob Van Dam and Booker T. At least there’s some big names to finish things off.
Kane and Big Show end up having a nice, big man stare down that ends with Kane lifting Show up and throwing him over the top rope. Whilst I still think the final four were quite good, it was disappointing that the last two entrants, RVD and Booker T barely lasted. Most years it feels like there’s a mid-card talent that they give a rub by a very impressible Rumble performance, but that didn’t happen this year. At least we got to see a Spinaroonie I guess. The final four is Austin, Perfect, Angle and Triple H and surprisingly Austin is the first to go. He’s focusing on trying to get Perfect out, but then Angle gets him from behind. A pissed off Stone Cold comes back and knocks out all three remaining participants with a steel chair, which adds some intrigue to the finish. Mr. Perfect has his way with Angle, landing a Perfect Plex, only to be thrown out by Triple H. Considering the build and what happened on Triple H’s return night, it makes sense for Trips and Kurt to be the final two here. Angle thinks he has eliminated Triple H, but he hasn’t, and he then runs into a High Knee, before being thrown out. Triple H wins the Rumble!
I do completely think they made the right call with the booking of the finish. The ‘Taker stuff with the cleaning house, The Hardyz reunion and the Maven stuff was epic as well. Even the little Hurricane moment was terrific, as was Austin dropping the remaining participants after being eliminated. Oh, and I almost forgot the way Kane eliminated Big Show. When I think of the Royal Rumble in general, some of those moments are what I think of as the best Rumble moments. Some real big high spots in this Rumble, potentially some of the biggest in Rumble history, but there was just still to long where not enough happened. I still remember the good stuff, but in some of the slow phases it dragged so I’ll end by saying this was solid. **3/4
I actually thought this was a pretty strong start in terms of PPV’s in 2002. I don’t think there was anything overly bad except for Trish/Jazz, and even that was an improvement on their division. Everything else at least delivered a solid viewing, and whilst I still don’t like the booking of the Undisputed Title match, I’d still recommend watching it. Good show overall, and now we have Triple H seemingly heading to WrestleMania to face a man who he competed against when he tore his quad, Chris Jericho.