WWE Unforgiven 2002 9/22/2002

September 22, 2002
Staples Center
Los Angeles, California
Attendance: 16,000
Buy Rate: .57
Announcers: Michael Cole, Tazz, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler


Fun Fact:
As with Summerslam, the brand-specific matches will have their respective announcers from here on out.

Sunday Night Heat

1) Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) defeats Chavo Guerrero in 8:58

Fun Fact: So the landscape changed once again, and what was once undisputed is no more. So we’ve talked about the bouncing around of superstars from one show to the other since the brand extension. Well the biggest shock occurred the night after Summerslam on August 26, when Smackdown GM Stephanie McMahon signed WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar to an exclusive contract. That left Raw with no champion, so Eric Bischoff brought back the old WCW Title belt, and rechristened it the “World Heavyweight Championship”. We will have more on the story behind that a little later on. So the title is no longer undisputed. So from here on out we will designate the Big Gold Belt the “World Heavyweight Title” and the WWE World Title loses its “world” status and will just be called “WWE Championship.”

Pay Per View

1) Kane (Glen Jacobs), Bubba Ray Dudley (Ray Lomonica), Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and Booker T (Booker Huffman) defeat the Un-Americans when Kane pins Lance Storm (Lance Evers) with a chokeslam at 9:59

Fun Fact: On the August 26 Raw, the Un-Americans came out and were set to light fire to the American flag in the middle of the ring. The torching was temporarily stopped when Kane’s music and pyro fired up. When Kane didn’t appear, Test relit the torch but Booker and Goldust ran out to make the save. The numbers were too much and Booker and Goldust were quickly dispatched of. Just when Jerry Lawler was about to get involved, Kane made his triumphant return to a huge pop. He has been on the sidelines since he was injured by in April. After running off the Un-Americans, Kane was even convinced to do a Kane-a-rooni after Booker did a Spinarooni. The sides would war over the ensuing weeks. Bradshaw had been involved on the American team, but he suffered an untimely injury and Bubba Ray Dudley took his place after getting involved in a fracas the week before the PPV.

Fun Fact II:
William Regal joined the Un-Americans on the 9/9 Raw when he came out and helped Christian & Storm retain their tag titles against Kane & Bradshaw.

Scott:
Not a bad opener to the show, as the LA crowd really had its high moments. They were also a few months removed from the Lakers fourteenth Championship, so they were naturally in a good mood. The crowd really put a charge into this match, because both sides had so much heat from the fans. Booker T and Goldust were turning into a pretty good little team, as Booker was a great straight man to Goldust’s unusual rants. They were also chasing the tag straps from ½ of the Un-Americans, Lance Storm and Christian. Test was already the muscle of the group, and now they’ve added the swank William Regal to the mix. It made sense as he didn’t have much going on anyway. Bubba Ray’s singles run has been ok, maybe better than Billy Gunn’s run in the summer of 1999. Still, I don’t know what the writers were trying to get out of him, but he was doing his best on Raw, which had a top heavy roster of Triple H, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho and Ric Flair. So Bubba Ray really never got going as a singles guy, but he was over enough to add some energy to the match. The real attraction was Kane, who had been out for a while with an injury and returned right before this match to get the hot tag and pick up the pin. This would lead to a mini main event run for Kane, which unfortunately led to one of the most embarrassing and utterly offensive skits in WWE history. But, back to this match. It’s got a good flow and again the crowd really gets behind it. Kane gets the pin and the Un-Americans are taken down. Grade: 3

Justin: As their group grew in size and their antics grew more malicious, the Un-Americans were starting to generate some really good heat from the fans. The LA faithful are all over them from the start here and they get into this right away with a nice back and forth open from the two teams. Booker was really getting over at this point and was slowly elevating himself into being a major face player on Raw. After a quick start, the Un-Americans would slow Booker down and begin a good little heat segment. Kane picked right up where he left off and came back jacked and ready for a big push. Test was impressive again here showing off some nice power offense in limited minutes. Booker would get a huge pop for the ever popular Spinarooni and now that he was a face, JR endorsed it instead of being offended by it. The pace would really pick up as all eight men let loose and started trading finishers and near falls in a super hot sequence. Storm would pick up a great near fall with a superkick on Kane but the American foursome would defeat the evil Un-Americans with Kane picking up the win. All eight men were fired up and worked hard to really get the crowd into the show. The match was a fun opener with a hot crowd and kicked Kane’s mega push into high gear with a nice PPV win. The Un-Americans were on borrowed time and things would quickly fall apart for them in the upcoming weeks. Grade: 2.5

2) Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) defeats Ric Flair (Richard Fliehr) to retain WWE Intercontinental Title with the Walls of Jericho at 6:16

Fun Fact: Chris Jericho defeated Rob Van Dam on the 9/16 Raw from Denver to win his sixth Intercontinental Title.

Fun Fact II:
In a shocking upset, Ric Flair lost a match clean to Rico on the 9/16 Raw. It was a questionable decision at the time and many people wondered why you would have Flair job clean on Raw without any build up to really put Rico over. Later that night, Flair was further humiliated when Triple H ran him down and basically called him a has-been. Flair said he still was capable out there but the storyline heading into this match portrayed him as a man left trying to prove himself to everyone.

Scott:
This is a rematch from Summerslam where the roles have reversed. At Summerslam Jericho was chasing Flair’s respect. This time around Flair was chasing Jericho’s Intercontinental Title. Flair is definitely back into a good groove in the ring, at least for someone his age. Sure the 1985 Ric Flair is gone, but he’s also adapted and has changed his style a bit to reflect the times and his age. Jericho has had such a topsy-turvy year, from defeating Rock and Austin in back-to-back months, to the big Wrestlemania loss, to losing matches to unknowns like John Cena. Now he becomes the IC Champ again and he’s the one everyone’s chasing. This match does connect with what happens later in the night, as Flair foolishly falls for Jericho’s “injury”. While the referee is talking with an official outside the ring, Jericho blindsides Flair and hooks the Walls on. Flair has no choice but to tap out, and both JR and the King made a point to say that for the first time in quite a while, Flair was the one that was outsmarted. The match itself isn’t bad, but I think their Summerslam match was better. This one is a little slower and indeed is booked differently. Jericho continues to roll on as IC Champ, and as we mentioned Flair’s night isn’t over. Grade: 2.5

Justin: After picking up a shocking win on Jericho last month, Flair gets a crack at some gold here. He was pretty enthusiastic in the ring and the fans were behind him, but JR and King kept pushing the “one last run” storyline on commentary. After a tough loss to Rico and being shown a lack of respect from Triple H, Flair’s abilities were coming into question. Here, Jericho works him over with some basic offense before Flair makes a quick comeback and begins to work the leg. Jericho would sucker Flair in and steal the win, beating Flair at his own game. While the match wasn’t anything special, it was still good and hard fought. Jericho gets his win back and marches on as Flair takes a step back to rethink his options. Grade: 2.5

3) Eddie Guerrero defeats Edge (Adam Copeland) with a powerbomb at 11:55

Fun Fact: Around this time, Paul Heyman was named head writer of the Smackdown brand. Edge and Eddie Guerrero were two of the featured players that Heyman used to solidify his upper mid card and to ensure that each episode of the show had a rocking match on the card. Edge, Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and Chavo Guerrero would affectionately come to be known as the “Smackdown Six” and all of them would put on some of the best pure wrestling matches of their careers during this time frame. Eddie and Edge would have a rubber match on the 9/26 Smackdown when Edge picked up the win in an awesome No Disqualification match. Eddie would receive a standing ovation from the fans after the match and it seemed like the seeds were being planted for a natural face turn for Latino Heat.

Scott:
Continuing the trend of rematches from Summerslam, Edge and Eddie go toe to toe again. Their match the previous month was really good. Eddie was really clicking on all cylinders since coming back earlier in the year. It needs to be noted that Eddie Guerrero went from a sloppy, painkiller-riddled mess to a top notch, very motivated superstar back in the spotlight. Edge has been cooking really since the summer of 2001. He’s faced all sorts of competitors, and even when it seemed the writers weren’t sure what to do with him in the beginning of the year he’s getting involved in a solid mid-card feud with Eddie, who he’s helping in effect. Eddie was handed such a great cache of opponents since coming back, from RVD to Edge to the Dudleys. He almost got into a prime time feud with Steve Austin but as we saw that didn’t happen. Doesn’t matter, the match was really good, maybe a little bit better than their Summerslam encounter. The pace was solid and Edge continues to really grow in the ring and dictate pace. Both stay in each other’s crosshairs, but a new wrinkle and more people will be added to the mix. Grade: 4

Justin: Edge’s ascent into an elite worker continues here as he gets a rematch with the man he beat at Summerslam. These two had been tearing it up on Smackdown so expectations were high heading in here. Edge needed to keep ripping off quality outings as they were no longer surprises, but now expected. The pace is here is quick and crisp as you could tell both men were trying their hardest to at least equal their great Summerslam outing. Edge did a good job selling a concussion he received in the build up to this match and Eddie makes sure to work the head throughout. He would also slow up the pace a bit while punishing Edge with some vicious offense. The two men had great chemistry at this point and pulled off some hot near falls. The finish was pretty sick as Eddie snaps Edge down with a stiff powerbomb to pick up the win and even up the series. The crowd was red hot to match the pace. Edge was impressive again but Eddie was damn near flawless and was quickly establishing himself as the premier worker in North America. Grade: 3.5

*** Backstage, Triple H busts into the face locker room and digs on Rob Van Dam to add some heat for later in the night. He also takes shots at Ric Flair, questioning his passion and desire. ***

4) Three Minute Warning defeats Billy & Chuck when Jamal (Eddie Fatu) pins Billy (Monte Sop) with a Samoan Drop at 6:38

Fun Fact I: Three Minute Warning burst onto the scene in the summer and played the role of Eric Bischoff’s heavies. The team was comprised of Jamal and Rosey. Both were nephews of Afa the Samoan and would train under his watch in the mid 90s. They actually had a brief cup of coffee in the WWF in 1995 when they were spotted in the audience and referred to as Fatu’s family members. The intended storyline is that they would corrupt the happy go lucky Fatu but the angle was quickly dropped. They were reassigned to the HWA, which was a WWF territory where they were named Ekmo and Kimo. Together they were known as the Island Boyz and had one reign as HWA tag team champions. In 2000, they left HWA and spent the next two years in Japan and Memphis, refining their act. Vince came calling again in 2002 and the newly named Jamal and Rosey debuted on the 7/22 Raw. Bischoff had recently become bored with certain wrestlers and started giving them three minutes to entertain him. On that night, D-Lo Brown and Shawn Stasiak failed to do so and his new backup made their debut. Due to the three minute gimmick, they were officially dubbed Three Minute Warning. They garnered a lot of heat from the fans when they injured Lillian Garcia during an attack prior to Summerslam. They got over quickly with their high impact offense as both men moved well for big guys.

Fun Fact II:
Another one of Bischoff’s ratings ploys over the summer was a bit more controversial. In an attempt to spice up Raw, Bischoff introduced HLA: Hot Lesbian Action. On the 9/9 Raw, Bischoff brought out some lesbians and talked them into undressing. Just before they could proceed, Three Minute Warning made an appearance and laid them out to some big time heat. The following week, a women’s group called the “International Organization for Women” protested outside the building. Eric allowed them into the arena so he could meet them in the ring. Just when he was calling for 3MW, the ladies backed off. However, one stepped back up and punted Bischoff in the groin. She ripped off a wig and revealed herself to be Stephanie McMahon. Billy & Chuck would then come out and give Bischoff a clothesline from the top rope. Billy, Chuck and Steph would escape through the crowd and Bischoff was left steaming in the ring. The HLA stipulation was then added to this match, wherein if Billy & Chuck lost, she would have to partake. If 3MW lost, Bischoff would have to kiss Steph’s ass in the ring.

Fun Fact III:
As the weeks wore on, Billy & Chuck became cozier and cozier. They eventually got to the point where they basically proposed to each other and a commitment ceremony was set up for the 9/12 Smackdown. They actually got some positive mainstream coverage and GLAAD even sent the couple a wedding present. Things would quickly come unraveled, however. During the show, Rico, doubling as wedding planner, came out to make sure everything was set up just right for the ceremony. Steph would come out to start the festivities, noting that this was a historic occasion. The grooms then appeared, serenaded to the ring by a group singing “It’s Raining Men.” Billy & Chuck hit the ring and were all smiles as the song played on. Both men would read some vows and we even got to see a quick video package, detailing their relationship. As the minister asked if anyone dissented, the Godfather and ten hoes made an appearance to attempt to sway Billy &Chuck. After Godfather questioned their decision, Rico quickly ushered him and the ladies from the ring, much the surprising consternation of Billy & Chuck. As the ceremony proceeded, Billy & Chuck continued to look more and more perplexed as Rico continued to urge them on. Both men would answer “yes” when asked but it took prodding from Rico to do so. Just as the minister was about to officially pronounce them as wedded, Chuck interrupted him and he and Billy spilled their guts. They started yelling at Rico, admitting that they weren’t gay and that this was all supposed to just be a publicity stunt. Rico flipped out and said he knew B&C would back out at the last minute. At this point, the minister stepped up and said that a commitment like Billy & Chuck’s will never change and can last fifty years, sixteen months…or three minutes. And with that the minister rips off an awesome latex mask to reveal Eric Bischoff to a huge pop from the crowd. Rico kicked Billy in the gut and Bischoff grabbed Steph as 3MW hit the ring to take care of business. They would take out Billy, Chuck and Stephanie and leave the ring a mess. The Raw crew quickly bolted as a majority of the Smackdown locker room emptied to protect their GM from further damage. It was alter announced that Rico was jumping to Raw and that he was in cahoots with Bischoff and that he had organized the commitment ceremony to embarrass B&C and help set up the attack of the rival show and GM.

Scott:
A sloppy, but workable tag match put on simply to get the Lesbians out. I liked the Three Minute Warning concept. It’s almost like a new version of the Samoan Swat Team. They just came in and obliterated anybody in their path. Billy & Chuck had no sizzle left after the “Gary & Ace” concept ended, as they were just another tag team. Clearly the crowd wanted to see Three Minute Warning win, even though they were heels, so they can see Stephanie McMahon get down with some hot lesbians. Even though there was a pretty good chance no one was going to see what they really wanted to see, it doesn’t hurt to at least have the opportunity. Now knowing how the internet rumor machine churns these days, if Stephanie had actually kissed a woman, tongue or no tongue, you know some twit would have spun some rumor that Vince’s princess swung both ways. Not that there would be anything wrong with it, but its more an example of how some people shouldn’t be trusted with a mouse and keyboard. Anyway I digress. The match itself is ok, nothing special and served to push the storyline of Bischoff running Raw like he ran Nitro. Well not quite. We’ll delve into the aftermath of this match later, but for now, pucker up Steph. Grade: 2

Justin: After dominating the tag team division for most of 2002, Billy & Chuck have now ditched the Ace & Gary shtick and hopped over to the face side as two straight tough guys. There was a lot of build for this bout and a lot was riding on the match. It was labeled as a battle for brand supremacy and both GMs had humiliating stipulations involved. The match itself was a basic tag team brawl that saw Rico get involved on multiple occasions. The hook here was that the whole Smackdown roster was behind Steph, Billy and Chuck while the Raw roster was not backing Bischoff and 3MW due to all of the recent assaults by the group. 3MW had some good heat here and looked fairly impressive with their surprisingly agile offense. They pick up a nice win here in a decent match and Eric Bischoff was ecstatic that Raw came out on top. The win means Steph would have to partake in some HLA later in the night. Grade: 2

5) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) to retain World Heavyweight Title with a Pedigree at 18:19

Fun Fact: So here we go. The day the Triple H hatred on the internet and beyond officially kicked into high gear. We mentioned above that Stephanie McMahon signed WWE Champion Brock Lesnar to an exclusive Smackdown contract. So Eric Bischoff came out on the 9/2 Raw and with him was a Halliburton. He told the Raw fans that they deserved their own World Champion, so Bischoff pulled out the old WCW Title Belt, declared it be called the World Heavyweight Championship, and “awarded it” to Triple H. Now the night after Summerslam at Madison Square Garden Triple H defeated Undertaker to become the #1 contender to Lesnar’s WWE Title. However since that title was now brand-specific to Smackdown, the natural thing was to give Triple H the other major title on Raw. However many fans (smart, mark and otherwise) didn’t look to that rationale and looked to the fact that Stephanie McMahon and Triple H were dating behind the scenes, so obviously the nepotism accusations ran rampant. They’ll get even more heated as 2003 dawns, and we’ll banter that debate as well. Triple H would face and defeat Ric Flair later that night in his first official defense.

Fun Fact II:
RVD received this title shot by winning a fatal four-way #1 contenders match against Big Show, Chris Jericho and Jeff Hardy on the 9/9 Raw in Ames, Iowa.

Scott:
What a change in personality and look for The Game. At the beginning of the year, Triple H had his trademark beard, wet hair and killer personality. Fast forward nine months, and we start seeing the transformation into his idol, Ric Flair. Gone is the beard, the hair is a little more fluffed out. He had a stellar match with his old DX buddy Shawn Michaels the previous month at Summerslam, but here for some reason the match really slogs along. I think most of it is that RVD didn’t wrestle his normal high-flying fast paced match. It seemed to me that Van Dam was trying to outwrestle Triple H instead of hitting his striking kicks and quick maneuvers. He spends most of the first five or six minutes putting the champ in a headlock. A headlock? No clue where this was coming from, but it really bogged down what could have been a pretty good match. Now I’m not going to exonerate Triple H from this sludgefest. What’s with the sleeper? He never uses a sleeper, and this is the first of many instances over the next year that he puts that into his repertoire. I was looking forward to this match because I wanted Triple H to be challenged by a guy clearly quicker and willing to take some more risks. Instead RVD decided to grind and use grapple moves, so in effect instead of challenging Triple H, RVD played into his strengths. The Ric Flair heel turn was probably not unexpected since Triple H always wanted to work closely with his mentor. It also made sense because really there was not much for Flair to do, and staying a useless mid-card face isn’t what the greatest ever should be doing. This was a match that six months ago you would have thought would be top notch. Triple H’s bigger upper body and RVD’s slow down approach made what would have been 3-3.5 stars much lower. Grade: 2

Justin: Well, it was only a matter of time before the Undisputed Championship fell by the wayside and each show received a title. With Brock Lesnar hijacking his belt on Smackdown, Eric Bischoff digs up the big gold belt and hands it over to Triple H. It made sense from a storyline perspective, but they could have avoided a lot of backlash by just holding a mini tournament that concluded here. Heck, it could have even been as easy as making the winner of the Triple H/Flair match that night the Champion. Regardless, Triple H was now the World Heavyweight Champion and his first PPV challenger was Mr. PPV himself, Rob Van Dam. Early on, JR really pushed Triple H’s technical ability and smarts in the ring. To contract that, they focused on RVD’s laid back style and easy going persona. The story was whether or not RVD could use that attitude to pull off the upset or if his lax style would cost him. Another facet of the psychology was whether or not RVD would be intimidated by the Game in a World title match. Well, RVD answered that right from the get go as he mocked Hunter’s water spit right in from of him. RVD would stick with his usual offense but the high risk moves would backfire and Hunter took over. As he started to pick RVD apart, JR again began to harp on Hunter’s precision and cerebral based offense. He would even lock in a sleeper, a move which he was trying to reestablish as a legit finisher during this period. After winning a match or two with it on Raw, he quickly gave up on that idea when it wasn’t getting over. RVD would hang in there and made a nice comeback. He worked hard and I thought they told the story within the match really well. RVD would actually have Hunter down for the three count but the referee was out cold. It showed that he could have beat the Champion and would be come somewhat of a moral victory for him. Things would quickly turn, though, when Ric Flair came out with the sledge in hand. Everyone thought he was looking for revenge on Hunter, but if you were at all familiar with Flair’s past, you knew where that steel was headed. That’s right, Natch turns on RVD, smacks him with the hammer and gives the match to Triple H. He was now back to being a heel and would become Triple H’s loyal corner man for the next three years. After watching this match again, I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed it. It had a good pace, storyline and finish. RVD put up a good fight and looked in losing as Flair had to get involved to cost him the match. The bout really isn’t as bad as its reputation as the booking made sense from beginning to end. I think it catches flack because Hunter was handed the belt and he beat net favorite RVD, but the match itself was fine. RVD would take a temporary step back while Hunter continues his domination of Raw. Grade: 3

6) Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) defeats Molly Holly (Nora Greenwald) to win WWE Women’s Title with a bulldog at 5:46

Scott: We take a breather between intense matches with a quick women’s title match involving two Divas who were feuding a few months ago, but we hadn’t seen them since the late spring. The women’s division was very flighty at this point. No real focus was put on it, but over the next couple of months it becomes more pronounced on the card. The match itself is ok, nothing to write home about. Trish wins the title back that Molly stole from her earlier in the year. Grade: 2

Justin: After showing continued improvement in the ring, Trish walks into the City of Angels and takes back her Championship. Since breaking free from the Hurricane and proselytizing about her virginal ways, Molly has developed a nice little mean streak in the ring. She would control the pace here and did a nice job stopping Trish’s little comeback attempts. Molly would work the back in between Trish sneaking in some nice near falls. Trish would end up catching Molly with a bulldog and stealing the win and her title. The finish got a good pop to end a nice match. Trish is back on top of the mountain but she would soon have a new rival to contend with. Grade: 2

7) Chris Benoit defeats Kurt Angle with a roll up at 13:55

Fun Fact: After Summerslam, Stephanie held a number one contender’s series to determine who would get a crack at Brock Lesnar. Benoit and Angle lost their match to Undertaker, upsetting both men. They would begin to challenge each other to determine who the better wrestler was. On the 9/12 Smackdown, Angle interfered in Benoit’s match with Rikishi. After knocking Benoit off the top rope, he watched on in laughter as Rikishi buried Benoit in a stinkface. Later that night, an embarrassed Benoit demanded a match with Angle at Unforgiven. A week later, Benoit and Angle lost a match to Billy & Chuck. After the match, Angle jumped Benoit and forced him to tap to the Anklelock. Angle would release the hold but then quickly reapply it. This time, Benoit countered and forced Angle to tap to the crossface. Emotions were high as each man was determined to prove he was better in this Wrestlemania X-7 rematch.

Scott:
Wow. Since their awesome match at Wrestlemania XVII, these two studs have met numerous times on PPV and they never grow old. This match actually seems to mirror that 2001 match in Houston. Both guys grapple and strike the crap out of each other. They have a superb submission exchange, and the endings even mirror each other. Well, almost. At Wrestlemania XVII, Angle won with a handful of tights. Here Benoit, who’s probably still kind of a tweener, puts his feet on the ropes to get the win. Overall these two guys are tearing it up. Benoit definitely shook off any ring rust from the extended time off to rehab his neck surgery. Angle just keeps on keeping on. Really when was his last real bad match? Even his match at Wrestlemania against Kane was moderately good. We have also started getting used to his bald look, and now he’s becoming more of a machine. Put the package together and you’ve got another hell of a match. Just like the Eddie Guerrero/Edge feud, these two will shift the feud in another direction, although even more bizarre than Eddie and Edge, although both pairs would meet in one of 2002’s best matches next month. Angle outsmarted Benoit at Wrestlemania XVII, and here Benoit returns the favor. Grade: 4.5

Justin: With nothing but pride on the line, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit would again steal the show and put on the match of the night. They were simply trying to see who the better man was. Both men stayed on the mat early on, trying to wrestle each other but Angle was the first to crack and show some frustration. Things would pick up from there with both men working stiff and snug. They would war back and forth with neither gaining control. That back and forth would lead to a crazy German suplex battle with each man drilling the other with a series of them. The crowd was really starting to dig on this one as Benoit unleashed a nasty 360 German release suplex on Kurt, who sold it like a champ. And just when you think they couldn’t go at a quicker pace, they picked it up and went into a crazy flurry as the match began to wind down. They would trade finishers at a rapid pace and work in some red hot near falls. Finally, in a call back to Wrestlemania X-7, Benoit would roll Kurt up and hook the ropes to steal the win. I wasn’t too crazy with the finish but it made sense and was a cool homage to their first battle. Benoit picks up a win to further get under Kurt’s skin but before their feud can continue, these two warriors would find themselves on the same side of the ring in some epic wars. This was easily the match of the night. Grade: 4.5

*** Now the ridiculous part of this PPV, as Stephanie McMahon must perform Hot Lesbian Action with two hot chicks picked by Eric Bischoff. Instead Rikishi comes out dressed in drag and ends up stinkfacing Bischoff for no reason. This segment was basically here to cool off the crowd but it actually garnered quite the reaction when the lesbians were about to get down with Steph. Unfortunately, that quickly dissipated when Rikishi came out in drag and put the stinkface on Eric. Stephanie gets the last laugh as payback for the commitment ceremony attack as Bischoff is humiliated. This really could have been saved for Smackdown but at least they paid off the angle so all the interested parties could move on. ***

8) Brock Lesnar and Undertaker (Mark Callaway) wrestle to a double disqualification at 20:27; Lesnar retains WWE Championship

Fun Fact: Undertaker earned this match by winning the number one contender’s series. After picking up a pair of wins in consecutive weeks, Brock was set for a face to face interview with Undertaker on the 9/5 Smackdown. After the two sniped back and forth about their respective legacies, Paul Heyman interjected and began discussing Undertaker’s home life. He claimed that Taker’s focus would be divided as he had to tend to his pregnant wife, Sara. Taker warned Heyman to shut up, but Paul kept prodding. Paul would cap off his taunts by telling Taker that after Brock took him out at Unforgiven, he would be more than happy to look after his wife. However, he would not take care of Taker’s unborn child. Taker lost his cool and shoved Heyman, but Paul recovered and held Brock back from retaliating. The next week, during Undertaker’s match with Matt Hardy, Paul Heyman showed up on screen in Taker’s locker room, where his wife Sara just happened to be. Paul commented on how beautiful she was looking and then asked Sara how she was planning to care for a newborn child when her husband was going to end up an invalid. Before any more could be said, Taker burst into the room and grabbed Paul by the throat. That allowed an opening for Brock to come in and smash Taker in the head, leaving him lying. Brock would then place his hand on Sara’s stomach and say “life’s a bitch”. A week later, Heyman and Lesnar again avoided Taker by having a police corps cuff Lesnar and place him in “protective custody”.

Fun Fact II:
Internet legend has it that Undertaker refused to job to Lesnar at the last minute and the finish was changed to the schmozz. Others claim that the double DQ finish was intended to build intrigue for a stipulation rematch the following month. Either way, Taker earned a lot of heat from smart fans over the next few weeks for not lying down for Brock after both Rock and Hulk Hogan had just done so within the last six weeks.

Scott:
So our main event is a big man battle between the Next Big Thing, and the always big thing. We’ll get into the backstage scuttlebutt on this match in a minute. The match itself was pretty good, as both guys really beat each other down with a variety of power moves and strikes. Taker really looked solid here, and it’s a complete 180 from what Justin and I hated about him in late-2000 throughout all of 2001. He lost a good amount of weight and didn’t look worn down or tired. Sure the injury bug would catch up to him as the years will progress, but here he’s ready to rock and roll. Lesnar seems more comfortable with his character since beating Rock at Summerslam. He talked a bit more, and needed Paul Heyman a little less. He really put over his move set of shoulderblocks, power slams and the solid painful strikes. He hits the canvas a little harder for real effect. Against Taker, a guy close to his size, the moves really take on a special effect. The match is paced well, as both men move around the ring, with the antagonistic Heyman there to get under Taker’s skin. The ending really sucked, which leads to the aforementioned scuttlebutt that was going on backstage. So Taker apparently didn’t want to lay down to this newcomer who was hot-shotted the title after being around for literally five months. Now you can look at this two ways. If you’re Undertaker, you can say to yourself that this guy who just came out of nowhere and was given the World Title this quickly should understand the pecking order, and that he hardly paid any dues. Sure Taker was given the title after a year in 1991, but that was more due to the politics of Hulk Hogan than anything else. So Taker wanted to protect the integrity of the business and make sure that this Lesnar kid knew that things don’t always come this easy. Now on the other hand Vince and the backstage writers were realizing that a majority of the foundation the past four years was out of the picture, and that other than Triple H and Undertaker the main event scene was a little thin. Sure they had Angle and Benoit, but you don’t want to completely strip the mid-card down to nothing and then we’re back to 1998-99 PPVs where everything banked on the main event. So Vince realized that Lesnar had that look to be a top line guy in the future, face or heel. Once he hit the scene in March, the crowd latched onto him quickly, booing him vociferously and having a heat magnet like Heyman doesn’t hurt either. Rock had no problems putting Lesnar over clean at Summerslam, so where does Taker get off thinking he’s better than Rock when it comes to putting talent over? Need we remind Taker that his idea of bringing his pals Kronik in the year before was an unmitigated disaster? Backstage seniority or not, do what needs to be done. So there are both sides, and you can draw your own conclusions. Besides, the unfinished ending leads to a gem the following month. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Just two months after losing his Undisputed Championship at Vengeance, Undertaker rides to the ring to his new theme music looking to regain the gold. Brock Lesnar was out next and you could tell just by looking at him that he had the “it” factor. All of his matches just had a big fight feel to them and this contest was no exception. Brock would use his freakish power to work Taker over, but the Deadman would gain back control. That would be short lived, however, as Paul Heyman would get involved and distract Taker. Once Brock took over, things slowed down a bit as he clamped on a tight bear hug to wear Taker down. Business picked up when Brock busted him open and he would show his aggressiveness by targeting the cut. Once he got back into things, Taker would pick up some really close near falls. The crowd started to rumble a bit, sensing a possible title change. Matt Hardy would show up and cause a brief distraction, but Taker would shrug him off and mercilessly beat Lesnar with some nasty chair shots. That would quickly lead to the double DQ and the crowd quickly turned on them as soon as the bell rang. We went over all of the backstage stuff above, so I will let it be, but Taker knew he had to make up for this mess of a finish at the next show. He would get his rematch and this time, he would bust his ass to make things right. Grade: 2.5

Final Analysis

Scott: This show has its ups and downs. A good portion of the mid-card matches were exceptional, as Eddie Guerrero and Edge brought it for the second straight month and the Angle/Benoit match competes well against their gem at Wrestlemania XVII. The eight man tag opener was pretty solid too as the crowd was rabid for the evil Un-Americans to go down. Speaking of the crowd, we must give kudos to the LA crowd for bringing the noise and energy to the show. As we’ve documented, California wrestling crowds are notoriously quiet and lame. Heck, we still wonder how Anaheim received two Wrestlemanias. However tonight the City of Angels was electric and was into pretty much every match. The tag match for HLA was ok, and the women’s match was pretty flat. The Jericho/Flair match lacked the sizzle that it had the previous month, although that ending was more needed to spark the heel turn later in the night. Both main event title matches were decent, but the RVD/Triple H was more of a disappointment because I feel RVD totally changed his philosophy and the match lacked that sparkle it could have had. The Taker/Lesnar match was pretty good until the end. Regardless of why or what caused that ending, we do have a rematch next month, and let’s say it’s not a disappointment. Based on how solid the mid-card matches are, I’ll grade this higher than average over lower than average. A good overall show helped a lot by a surprisingly hot LA crowd. Final Grade: B-

Justin: This is a tough show to break down. All of the matches had good backstory and the crowd was into each of them for the most part. Everyone worked hard but a few of the bouts just never clicked. The main event had potential and felt like a big fight, but the backstage politics muddied the finish and sent the crowd home on a sour note. As Scott mentioned, the Angle/Benoit and Edge/Eddie matches were fantastic and pretty much ensured this show was worth watching all on their own. I cop to enjoying the Triple H/RVD match more than most, so that also adds to the quality of the show for me. With the brands finally starting to seem different and brand loyalty becoming a badge of honor, things were finally starting to stabilize a bit. We now have to World Championships so wrestlers on each brand had something to shoot for. The title situations would continue to be in a state of flux over the next few weeks as well. As a whole, I liked that we finally see some direction and focus in the booking. We have two solid hands on top of each show and a slew of competitors lined up to get a piece of the action. Also, with Paul Heyman in charge, Smackdown was really starting to get white hot as it featured intriguing stories and fantastic matches on a weekly basis. I am going to grade this show favorably because I enjoyed it quite a bit and we will see if they keep the focus and momentum going next month. Final Grade: B

MVP: Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit
Runner Up: Edge & Eddie Guerrero
Non MVP: Undertaker
Runner Up: HLA Stinkface segment

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